SOUTH ST. PAUL — A South St. Paul man with a history of mental illness was sentenced Tuesday, Jan. 7, to 20 years in custody for shooting two police officers.
Dustin Allen Bilderback, 34, pleaded guilty in October to two counts of first-degree attempted murder in connection with the July 2018 shooting outside the group home where he had been staying for the previous six months.
The sentence — handed down by Dakota County District Judge Karen Asphaug — was the maximum allowed under state sentencing guidelines, Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom said.
Because Bilderback was committed in 2009 as mentally ill and dangerous out of Anoka County, the state’s Department of Human Services and Department of Corrections will decide whether he serves the sentence at a secure treatment facility or in prison, the county attorney’s office said.
Bilderback had been on a provisional discharge from the Minnesota Security Hospital in St. Peter and living at a supportive housing facility in South St. Paul that serves clients with mental health issues.
Bilderback was upset at the thought of being evicted from the group home when he grabbed a shotgun from his car on July 19, 2018, and fired at four South St. Paul police officers, striking two of them, prosecutors say.
Earlier in the day, a request had been filed in Anoka County District Court to revoke the provisional discharge following his recent behavior at the group home, according to court documents.
The officers shot were Todd Waters, an 11-year veteran of the department, who was shot in the back, neck and arm, and Derek Kruse, a six-year veteran, who was hit in the leg but did not require hospitalization.
Officer Julie Bishop, a 17-year-veteran, suffered injuries not associated with gunfire, while Officer Dennis Brom, an 18-year-veteran, was also fired at but not hit.
Brom and Kruse shot back at Bilderback, who was not struck and eventually dropped his weapon and was arrested, police said.
At Tuesday’s sentencing hearing, Bishop and Kruse spoke about the impact the shooting has had on their personal and professional lives. They asked the judge to give Bilderback the maximum sentence.
Behavior raised concerns
About a week before the shooting, group home staff had noticed that Bilderback “seemed more paranoid than baseline” and was argumentative and was no longer allowing a nurse into his apartment to set up and monitor his medication, according to an Anoka County court document.
An Anoka County Human Services case manager also learned that Bilderback had been sending inappropriate and sexually explicit text messages to facility staff, and told staff that he had gotten into a physical fight with his brother.
According to criminal charges, Bilderback missed a meeting with the case manager and group home staff to discuss his behavior. A missing person’s report was filed with South St. Paul police, but Bilderback returned to the group home and met with the manager.
“During the meeting, (Bilderback) voiced his concern about returning to the hospital or police coming to the group home to get him,” charges read.
During the meeting, Bilderback asked for a cigarette and when he and the case manager went outside, three South St. Paul officers greeted them. Officers spoke to Bilderback and then to the caseworker to determine whether to place him on a 72-hour mental-health hold. Bilderback walked to his car parked in back of the group home.
Officer Waters followed Bilderback to ensure he did not leave the group home until a decision had been made about the 72-hour hold. Once at his car, Bilderback pulled the shotgun from the back seat. Waters ran and took cover, but Bilderback fired the shotgun.
While Bilderback was shooting, a fourth officer arrived on scene. Bilderback continued to walk toward the officers and fire at them. He fired the break-action shotgun six times, eventually dropping the weapon only after running out of ammunition, charges say.