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Gunman nears schools in Detroit Lakes prompts lockdowns

More than a dozen law enforcement officers responded to the scene on Barbara Avenue in Detroit Lakes, where officers arrested a man with a gun. Paula Quam / Forum News Service1 / 2
A Detroit Lakes man was arrested after brandishing a gun in the parking lot of the Detroit Lakes Food-N-Fuel Tuesday afternoon and refusing officer's orders to get out of the car. Paula Quam / Forum News Service 2 / 2

DETROIT LAKES, Minn.—One man with a sawed-off shotgun has been arrested following a dramatic scene near the Detroit Lakes Middle School/Roosevelt Elementary complex on Tuesday, March 13, just as school was dismissing for the day.

According to Detroit Lakes Police Chief Steve Todd, management at the Food-N-Fuel on Barbara Avenue, one block away from the schools, called police about a suspicious man who had been sleeping for about three hours in a vehicle in the gas station parking lot. The call came in at 3:14 p.m., so things started to unravel just as school was getting out.

"When our officer went to check and made contact with the person in the car, we saw he had a gun," said Todd, who says more than a dozen officers from every law enforcement agency in the immediate area quickly ascended upon the scene, as Minnesota State across Highway 34 was also locked down and staff at the Middle School and Roosevelt Elementary tried to keep kids who were still there either inside the school or at least directed southward, away from the scene.

Officers set up a vehicle barricade to stop traffic and children from getting close to the area.

"We didn't want any kids coming that way in case he started shooting at us," said Todd, who says officers worked for about eight minutes attempting to get the man, later identified as Steve Poitra, 37, of Detroit Lakes to come out of the vehicle.

"And then when he did get out, he refused to apply with commands so he could be secured. He was wearing some clothing that we couldn't tell if he had anything hidden."

Officers were able to apprehend the man without further incident or any shots fired.

Poitra is being held in the Becker County Jail after being arrested for felon in possession of a firearm, possession of sawed-off shotgun, possession of dangerous weapon in school zone, obstructing legal process with force and miscellaneous drug charges.

The incident was a scary one for Food-N-Fuel Owner Gira Joshi, who says the only reason she called the cops to begin with was because the man had been sleeping in the same position for nearly three hours, and she was worried there was something wrong.

When it became clear that the situation was a dangerous one, Joshi said officers came in to get her right away.

In talking about how scary the situation was, Joshi went on to thank responding officers as tears ran down her face.

"They came out to help us," she said. "We're safe, but our thanks to the DL Police Department, Sheriff's Department, State Troopers — I thank all the officers that helped us out."