By Paul Walsh
ALEXANDRIA, Minn. — Authorities are crediting a deputy's vest with saving his life after gunfire erupted near an Alexandria farm house Monday night, leaving a man and a woman from North Dakota dead.
"It's hard to say what would have happened if he wasn't wearing the vest," Douglas County Sheriff Troy Wolbersen said at a news conference Tuesday. "Where he was struck that certainly would have killed him."
The sheriff said the two suspects who were killed had no previous run-ins with Douglas County authorities. She was 29 and he was 24. The Ramsey County medical examiner's office is conducting autopsies.
A long gun and a hand gun were found near their bodies, the sheriff said.
The deputy, a three-year member of the department, was released from the hospital and is recuperating at home.
The incident began shortly after 9:15 p.m. Monday night in a farm home's driveway in Hudson Township, southeast of Alexandria and east of Lake Burgen, the Douglas County Sheriff's Office said.
According to the Sheriff's Office and Alexandria police:
The deputy went to 3140 50th Avenue. SE. in response to a call about a suspicious vehicle at the end of the driveway and encountered the man and the woman. One of them shot the deputy in the chest, a shot that was stopped by the deputy's bullet-resistent vest. The deputy returned fire as the car sped away.
The vehicle became stuck in the snow, and the men then fled on foot.
Authorities discovered the man and the woman, both dead, not far away near an outbuilding.
Members of the Sheriff's Office and Alexandria police returned to the scene shortly after 3:30 a.m. Tuesday, but authorities have yet to explain the purpose of the visit.
The Ramsey County medical examiner's office is conducting autopsies to determine how the men died. The deputy was treated and released from the Douglas County Hospital. The names of the men and the deputy have yet to be released.
The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is leading the investigation into the incident.
Christin Klimek lives about a mile east along 50th and noted that authorities had that stretch of road blocked off Tuesday morning.
Klimek said she's not surprised that an unfamiliar vehicle would prompt a call to the Sheriff's Office. "Folks in our neighborhood pay attention to things like that," she said.
She said the husband and wife who live at the farm home have been there for many years and are "nice people, retired farmers."
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