Man charged with attempted murder of South St. Paul police officers

Dustin Allen Bilderback

Officer Derek Kruse

Officer Todd Waters

submitted photo • On a rainy July 20, residents, both young and old, gathered in front of South St. Paul City Hall, home to the police department, to show their support to the department after two of its officers were shot the day before.

A 33-year-old man was charged July 20 with attempted murder for allegedly shooting two South St. Paul police officers the day prior.

Dustin Allen Bilderback was charged with two counts of first-degree attempted murder and two counts of second-degree intentional attempted murder. Each felony count carries a maximum sentence of 20 years.

Bilderback allegedly wounded officers Derek Kruse and Todd Waters as they responded to perform a welfare check on Bilderback at a South St. Paul group home.

Bilderback’s first appearance in Dakota County District Court was July 20, at which time his bail was set at $1 million. His next court appearance was July 26.


The events

According to the criminal complaint against Bilderback, on July 19 around 11 a.m., a mental health caseworker was scheduled to meet with him at the supportive housing group home where he lived in the 500 block of 12th Avenue North in South St. Paul. 

Bilderback was late, so the group home staff conducted a health and safety check of his room, which revealed that some of his personal items were missing. 

Bilderback was on provisional discharge from the St. Peter Security Hospital after having been committed as mentally ill and dangerous out of Anoka County. At 12:28 p.m., group home staff reported Bilderback as missing.

According to the complaint, shortly after the missing person report was made, Bilderback returned to the group home. Still, around 12:50 p.m., police officers from South St. Paul were dispatched to the home to conduct a welfare check. 

When Bilderback returned to the group home, he met with his caseworker and allegedly said he was worried about returning to the hospital or police coming to get him, according to the complaint. Bilderback told the caseworker he wanted a cigarette, so the pair exited the home. It was at this time that three officers arrived and were standing on the group home’s stoop.

Officers spoke with Bilderback and then began discussing with the caseworker if he should be placed on a 72-hour mental health hold. 

According to the complaint, while the group was talking, Bilderback walked to the back of the group home where his car was parked. An officer, Waters, followed to make sure he didn’t leave. 

Upon reaching his car, Bilderback allegedly pulled a shotgun from the back seat. Upon seeing the gun, Waters ran to take cover. Bilderback allegedly fired the gun, hitting Waters in the left side of his back, neck and arm. 

Bilderback allegedly walked towards the other officers and kept firing, the complaint says. He allegedly fired multiple shots, striking Kruse in the leg.

According to the complaint, Bilderback allegedly fired the shotgun a total of six times and two officers returned fire, but they did not hit him.

When officers shouted commands for Bilderback to drop his weapon, he complied and was placed under arrest.  

“I am extremely thankful that the officers were not killed or more seriously injured; and that there were no innocent bystanders who were shot,” said Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom in a statement. “I wish to extend my best wishes to the officers as they recover from the terrifying experience.”

The Dakota County Sheriff’s Office is leading the investigation into the shooting.


Community response

Kruse is a six-year veteran police officer. Waters is an 11-year veteran and, per a July 19 press conference with Dakota County Sheriff Tim Leslie, was hospitalized for his injuries.

The other officers involved were 17-year veteran officer Julie Bishop, who sustained injures not associated with gunfire, and 18-year veteran officer Dennis Brom. 

South St. Paul Police Chief Bill Messerich said at the July 19 press conference that the day’s situation could have had a more tragic outcome.

“Additionally, I’m thankful for the support of the community and our law enforcement partners as we deal with this incident,” Messerich said.

A resident organized a “Salute to Support the South St. Paul Police Department” event for July 20, during which people were asked to show up at the police department wearing blue to show their support and “Back the Blue.”

The organizer said she wanted to do something to show her support to a group of people that have been extremely helpful to her in the past. Roughly 80 to 100 people showed up to the event that was planned in 17 hours.


— Hannah Burlingame

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