A Red Lake Nation police officer was shot and killed Tuesday morning while responding to a call at a home on the Red Lake Indian Reservation in northwestern Minnesota.
Authorities identified the slain officer as Ryan Bialke, 37, a native of Buffalo, Minn., who joined the Red Lake force in 2014.
Native News Online reported that the shooting occurred at a home near Redby, a community of about 1,300 people on the south shore of Lower Red Lake.
According to a Twitter post by the Minneapolis office of the FBI, which is assisting with the investigation, Red Lake officers "were responding to a call at a residence when a subject fired a weapon killing an officer." The FBI said that a suspect in the shooting is in custody.
The Red Lake Department of Public Safety said Tuesday night that officers were responding to a call about a suicidal male at a residence where children were possibly inside. "The suspect opened fire on the officers and Officer Bialke was struck," the statement said. "The suspect fled into the surrounding woods and Officer Bialke was transported to Indian Health Service Hospital where he died."
Earlier, the Tribal Council issued a brief statement announcing that an officer had been fatally shot.
"Chairman [Darrell] Seki is directing all tribal programs and businesses to lower flags to half-staff throughout this week," it said. "Prayers and strength to the Red Lake Nation during this difficult time."
The Red Lake Reservation is about 250 miles northwest of the Twin Cities and is home to about 5,800 people, more than 90% of whom identify as American Indian.
Bialke was a happy and generous soul who lived to help others, said his ex-wife, Andrea Bialke of Hanover, Minn.
"Ryan had a big heart and he was always laughing and smiling, and he was a great dad to our three children," she said Tuesday. "He just loved helping everybody.
"If there was someone on the side of the road that needed help with their vehicle, he would stop and help. He was just that kind of guy.
"He would babysit his younger cousins. He just wanted the best for everybody."
It was Ryan Bialke's desire to help others that led him to police work, she said. He graduated from Rasmussen College and the couple moved to Bemidji when he landed the job in Red Lake. He was not a member of the tribe, she said.
Andrea Bialke said she didn't know how the officer was killed, nor was she notified by the tribal police. She said she got a text from a friend Tuesday morning with the news, and gathered with her parents and Ryan Bialke's brother to break the news to their children.
"They were devastated," she said. "My daughter is 6. She doesn't understand what happened to Daddy and that Daddy isn't here anymore." The couple also have 12-year-old twin sons.
The children had just spent a fun weekend with their father, she said, and he was smiling and "glowing" when he dropped them off.
"I think I'm still in shock," she said. "I just want our kids to be OK. I'm sure that with the family's support, they will be."
Bialke, who is identified on the Red Lake Nation website as a conservation enforcement officer, was one of 38 sworn law enforcement officers serving Red Lake.
In tribute to him, friends and loved ones on social media posted badges emblazoned "EOW 7-27-21," for "End of Watch." One friend chanted a traditional Indian traveling song "to help him on his travels to the spirit world."
Area law enforcement agencies took to social media, too, to express condolences.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with the Red Lake Police Department and all of those in the Red Lake Nation," Bemidji police said in a Facebook post. "It is with great sadness that we learn of the death of one of their officers in the line of duty today. We send our deepest condolences."
The Beltrami County Sheriff's Office posted on Facebook, "We are deeply saddened and keeping the Red Lake Nation in our thoughts as they suffered a law enforcement line of duty death today."
Rep. Matt Grossell, R-Clearbrook, issued a statement saying he was "devastated" to learn of Bialke's death.
"My prayers are with the family, loved ones, and colleagues of the fallen officer, and I send my condolences to the people of the Red Lake Nation," Grossell said.
Bialke is the second Red Lake officer to die in the line of duty in the past two years. In July 2019, officer Shannon "Opie" Barron died after suffering a medical emergency while responding to a call.
John Reinan • 612-673-7402