A Brook Park man took his own life after shooting his ex-wife last Wednesday night in rural Pine County. Around 9:15 p.m. December 5, the Pine County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO) responded to a reported shooting at 29243 Sunny Hill Rd.
According to the PCSO press release, Dawn Christen, 55, texted a message to a neighbor that she had been shot by her ex-husband, Daniel Shilts, also 55, who was still present inside the house on Sunny Hill Road.
Upon arriving, Pine County Sheriff’s Sgt. Thomas Meier made contact with Shilts, who briefly exited the house and stood on the front deck. Meier attempted to talk Shilts away from the house so deputies could go in and get Christen, but Shilts refused, fled back inside the dwelling and began turning off all the lights.
Several Pine and Chisago County Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) members, including Meier, made an exigent, high-risk entry into the house to rescue Christen. SWAT deputies located Christen in a bathroom; she had been shot in the chest and appeared to be in grave condition, the release states. As several members evacuated her to emergency medical services personnel outside, other SWAT deputies continued to search the house for Shilts.
The PCSO release says Shilts had fled to a living room couch and was discovered holding a pistol to his head threatening to kill himself. From a covered position by the living room entrance, SWAT deputies provided security, as a Pine County crisis negotiator talked with Shilts about safely resolving the situation. After approximately two hours of talks, Shilts shot himself. Deputies immediately began medical aid but Shilts died at the scene.
Investigators believe Shilts had forced entry into a rear door of the house before Christen arrived home, confronting her when she got home and shooting her in the chest. Christen fled to a bathroom and sent the text message. There were no active restraining or protection orders against Shilts, although Chief Deputy Steven Blackwell confirmed in a conversation Tuesday Christen was in the process of obtaining one.
Christen was transported to a Duluth hospital, were she was listed in serious condition but is now stable and expected to improve, according to Blackwell. The incident is currently under investigation by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.
“Leaving an abuser can sometimes escalate the violence,” stated Lisa Lilja, executive director of WINDOW Victim Services based in Hinckley. She explained the most dangerous time for a victim is when a victim is considering getting away from an abuser and right after a victim leaves an abuser.
“It is difficult to understand why a victim keeps going back to an abuser because it can take 10 attempts for a victim to leave an abuser for good. It is important that a victim’s friends and family stick with the friend or family member,” Lilja said, explaining one of an abuser’s tools for control and power over a victim is to isolate the victim.
“WINDOW provides options victims have, allows victims to make decisions on self-defined needs,” Lilja said, “and provides resources to help a victim implement her plan.”
Besides providing victims of domestic abuse important information, WINDOW supports victims of domestic violence with access to transportation to a safe house, assistance in filing orders for protection or restraining orders, accompanying victims to court and providing a 24-hour crisis line. Anyone experiencing domestic violence can call the crisis line at 1 (320) 384-7113 or 1 (800) 644-0003. More information on domestic violence and resources is available at http://www.windowhinckley.com/index.html.