Shooting strains tense relations between band, DNR

The Koochiching County Sheriff’s Department is continuing its investigation into last Wednesday’s shooting incident in which an off-duty employee of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources fired upon two Rainy River First Nation men.
As first reported in Thursday’s Daily Bulletin, Capt. Duane Nelson said charges are pending against Thomas Crumpton, 39, of Birchdale, Mn., who already has admitted to firing on the two men.
Capt. Nelson stressed Crumpton was at his own place “acting as an individual,” not on any order from the state.
The DNR’s main office in St. Paul, Mn. echoed Capt. Nelson’s statement, adding Crumpton has been placed on an “investigatory leave” until further notice.
“Any hostile actions that may have occurred are not condoned nor sanctioned by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources,” a DNR press release stated.
“The DNR is co-operating fully with the sheriff’s office in the investigation,” it added.
The shooting happened around 8 a.m. near the Long Sault Rapids on the Rainy River, about three km east of Birchdale, as Leroy Wilson and Gordon Wilson Jr. were collecting fish for breeding purposes at the sturgeon hatchery at Manitou Rapids.
“The two guys were lifting nets when, without warning, a shot went off and landed within feet of the boat,” Chief Jim Leonard said.
“[Crumpton] was standing on his deck,” he continued. “There was a lot of screaming back and forth, and then he ran back into his house and emerged with the rifle again.”
At that point, Chief Leonard said the men in the boat decided it was better to leave than be shot at again, noting the first bullet “was not a warning shot.”
Off duty or not, Crumpton’s actions come in the wake of already tense relations between the band and the DNR, which deteriorated last summer when the DNR took sturgeon out of the river to be re-stocked elsewhere in Minnesota.
Chief Leonard said the conflict has gone on too long without being resolved.
“We’ve never been able to sit down with the DNR. They’ve never responded to us,” he said.
“I’ve talked to both our MP and MPP, and left messages at their office,” Chief Leonard added, noting he’s “encouraged” them to try and arrange a meeting between the two groups.
“Someone in our government should be calling,” he said.