Man arrested in fatal shooting at North Shore resort

TOFTE - A man was fatally shot during an altercation outside a holiday party at a popular North Shore resort and restaurant early Wednesday, authorities said.

One man was killed and another arrested after a shooting early Wednesday at Bluefin Bay resort, located along Minnesota Highway 61 in Tofte on the North Shore. Adelle Whitefoot / Forum News Service

TOFTE - A man was fatally shot during an altercation outside a holiday party at a popular North Shore resort and restaurant early Wednesday, authorities said.

The Cook County Sheriff's Office said 61-year-old Kirk Lee Bigby of Finland was taken into custody shortly after the incident, which was reported at 12:12 a.m. at Bluefin Bay Resort in Tofte.

Sheriff Pat Eliasen said the victim, whose identity has not been released, was found unresponsive on the grounds of the resort.

Multiple guests reported that the shooting happened just outside the Bluefin Grille, an on-site restaurant where a casino-style party was being held for employees.

Eliasen said several people had stepped outside when the altercation developed. Bigby allegedly came into "physical contact" with the victim before producing a handgun and shooting him.


The sheriff reported that Bigby was taken into custody in a guest room after being identified by multiple witnesses. A firearm was also located in the room.

"This investigation is in its early stages and more specific details about the encounter is part of the ongoing investigation," Eliasen said in a statement.

Witnesses reported that Bigby was an employee of the lodge, while the victim was a worker employed by an outside company providing services for the party.

Bystanders said the party was lively at the time of the shooting, with casino games, music and dancing going on inside the facility.

Logan Anderson, 18, of Two Harbors, said he was attending the party but was outside when he heard a shot ring out.

"I knew right away what it was," he said. "People were wondering if it was fireworks or something. I've heard gunshots all my life. I knew it was that, so I took off running the opposite direction."

His friend, 18-year-old Lyric Johnson of Silver Bay, said partygoers began scrambling, unsure of what happened and how to react.

"Everybody was all over the place after that," she said. "I was really shocked. I didn't want to be around."


Some guests staying at the resort said they didn't know about the shooting until they woke up Wednesday morning.

One Twin Cities-area man, who was staying at the resort with his wife, said he heard a commotion around midnight but was unaware of the shooting.

"A couple of guys were arguing," said the guest, who declined to give his name. "I have no idea what it was about."

The Cook County Sheriff's Office, Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, Minnesota State Patrol and U.S. Border Patrol were all on scene Wednesday, clearing the area by 1 p.m.

Authorities said Bigby suffered minor injuries when he became uncooperative with arresting deputies. He was treated at Cook County North Shore Hospital and booked into the Cook County Jail on a preliminary charge of second-degree murder.

He will likely face formal charges and make an initial appearance in State District Court later this week or early next week.

Public records indicate that Bigby is a longtime resident of the Finland area. He does not have any criminal history in Minnesota or Wisconsin, according to court records.

Eliasen said the victim's identity is expected to be released Thursday after family members are notified and an autopsy is completed.


Violent homicide cases are exceedingly rare in the small, tourist-hotbed communities that dot the North Shore.

The incident appears to be the first such case in Cook County, which has a population of slightly more than 5,000, since 2001, when authorities said a mentally ill man fatally shot his wife in rural Grand Marais.

"Things like this never happen here," Johnson said. "It was really weird."

Employees on site deferred comment to Dennis Rysdahl, the resort's owner and general manager. Attempts to reach him Wednesday were unsuccessful.

The sheriff's office said it is continuing to investigate with assistance from the BCA.


By Tom Olsen, Forum News Service

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