Shooter says he doesn’t remember incident

Darren Lee Jwanouskos, 47, of Almelund, the man who shot at law enforcement officers outside his home Sept. 18 of last year, pleaded guilty before Judge Robert Rancourt in Chisago County Court Monday to one count of first-degree assault – use of deadly force against a peace officer.

The plea was in relation to an incident where Jwanouskos called police to his home during the annual Almelund Apple Festival, saying he would shoot bystanders in the area if police did not arrive.

According to documents read in court by Assistant Chisago County Attorney Jacob Fischmann, Jwanouskos fired a .22 caliber rifle at a responding armored SWAT team vehicle, striking it at least once. Officers returned fire, with one of them striking Jwanouskos. He was treated at a local hospital for his injures and has been in custody since the time of the incident.

As part of the plea agreement, six other charges against Jwanouskos were dropped. The charge he pleaded to carries a minimum sentence of 10 to 20 years in prison. His attorney, Mark Giancola, said they had agreed to the low end of that sentence at 10 years of imprisonment.

Jwanouskos’ guilty plea was of the Norgaard variety, meaning that he “claims an absence of memory on the essential elements of the offense, but pleads guilty because the record establishes and the defendant reasonably believes that the state has sufficient evidence to obtain a conviction,” according to Chisago County Attorney Janet Reiter.

When asked by Rancourt if he had “any recollection of any of the events referred to in (the police) reports,” Jwanouskos said he did not.

Rancourt said court documents note Jwanouskos was treated with a drug called Midazolam, a medication used for anesthesia and procedural sedation, at the hospital after he was shot. He noted a doctor said a possible side effect of the medication is amnesia.

Fischmann asked Jwanouskos to tell him the last thing he remembered that day.

“What I recall is that morning going outside,” he said. “I had really bad (facial) pain. I had a lot of dental work done, and my whole bottom jaw hurt really bad. I took a Percocet, and I thought I’d have a couple of drinks, and then I was going to mow the lawn and then take a nap and watch the Vikings game later that night and then call it a day. I remember having a couple of drinks in the garage, kind of looking at the lawn, and then a friend of ours pulled into the driveway, parked her truck, and she got out of the truck and said, ‘I’m going to park it right here,’ and she smiled and laughed and went down to the Apple Festival down the road. The next thing I remember is waking up and being told I was in a shootout with the SWAT team.”

It was noted in court that two hours after the shooting incident Jwanouskos’ blood-alcohol level was recorded at 0.27, more than double the legal limit to drive a car. Giancola also told the judge Jwanouskos takes medication for seizures and multiple sclerosis and had seen a “psychiatrist or another person for a mental condition” years ago.

Jwanouskos’ sentencing is scheduled for 3 p.m. Jan. 8.

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