Red Lake man to serve 37 years in prison for murder of tribal police officer

David Brian Donnell, Jr., 30, opened fire on officers July 27, 2021, killing officer Ryan Bialke.

David Donnell/Sherburne County Jail

A Red Lake man who pleaded guilty to fatally shooting a tribal police officer was sentenced to 37 years in prison Tuesday, according to U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger.

David Brian Donnell, Jr., 30, opened fire on officers July 27, 2021, killing officer Ryan Bialke when they attempted to conduct a welfare check at his residence, according to Alvin M. Winston, FBI special agent in charge.

When officers from the Red Lake Tribal Police Department responded to the call at  Donnell’s residence, Donnell was standing outside on the porch. Officers instructed him to walk towards them, but Donnell refused to comply and went inside the residence instead.

Officer Ryan Bialke, pictured fourth from the left.

Because Donnell had an active tribal warrant, officers breached the door. As soon as officers breached the door, Donnell opened fire, immediately striking Bialke. Donnell continued firing rounds from an Izhmash Saiga 7.62 caliber rifle at the four other officers on the scene.

While one officer returned fire, the other four were able to escape into the woods. Donnell fired at least 22 shots at Bialke and the other four as they fled. Bialke died on the scene.

Donnell fled the scene but was arrested at a nearby residence.

“When David Brian Donnell opened fire at officers on July 27, 2021, our community lost a husband, a father, a son, and a hero,” said Winston.

“Officer Bialke paid the ultimate price for his dedication to public safety, and today’s sentence is a testament to the tireless efforts of our state and local partners and the Headwaters Safe Trails Task Force to ensure that violent criminals are held accountable for their heinous crimes,” he continued. “We are unwavering in our commitment to safeguarding our indigenous communities with our tribal partners, and our thoughts are with Officer Bialke’s family and colleagues as they heal from this tragedy.”

“The tragic and violent events of July 27, 2021, that claimed the life of Officer Ryan Bialke brought an incalculable loss to his family and to his community,” said Luger. “Although the 37-year sentence handed down today represents justice under the law, the harm can never be undone. We honor the memory of Officer Bialke and commend the officers of the Red Lake Tribal Police Department for their continued courage and commitment in serving their community.”

Donnell pleaded guilty to one count of murder in the second degree. During the sentencing hearing, Judge John Tunheim extended condolences to Bialke’s family and said the 37-year sentence was “justified by a senseless crime.”

“He was a fine man, I wish I had known him,” Tunheim said.

Bialke was 37-years-old and is survived by his wife and four children. He was a native of Buffalo, Minn., and graduated from Rasmussen College.


Sheila Qualls

Sheila Qualls is an award-winning journalist and former civilian editor of an Army newspaper. Prior to joining Alpha News, she was a Christian Marriage and Family columnist at and a personal coach. Her work has been published in The Upper Room, the MOPS blog, Grown and Flown, and The Christian Post. She speaks nationally on issues involving faith and family.