CLEARBROOK, Minn.-Just over two months after a bullet ripped through its window and resulting shrapnel injured a Polk County Sheriff's deputy, a U.S Customs and Border Protection helicopter has taken to the skies once again.
Those involved in the nearly $20,000 effort to get the aircraft working were honored Thursday at the USCBP's office at Grand Forks (N.D.) International Airport.
"This is a team effort here and we could not fly safely without you," Max Raterman, director of air operations for the USCBP's Grand Forks region, told the group.
The helicopter was absent from the celebration, already out on a mission for the agency. A day earlier, mechanics from service provider PAE pointed out the repairs they made to the aircraft, including replacing a window, patching holes caused by the bullet and shrapnel, and fixing internal damage cause by the bullet passing through machinery near the aircraft's rotor.
"They did a lot of hard work, and it's much appreciated," Raterman said.
Despite piercing so much material, the bullet was recovered and will be tested and used as evidence in the federal and district court cases against Carstie Lee Clausen, 71, of rural Clearbrook, Minn.
Clausen is accused of opening fire on the helicopter on Aug. 8 when it passed over his property. The helicopter, which contained the deputy and a USCBP agent, flew over the land multiple times looking for a possible marijuana growing operation, according to a criminal complaint filed by FBI Special Agent Mark Meyers.
A bullet from a high-powered rifle breached the aircraft's window and the ensuing shrapnel injured the deputy's arm and eyes, though Polk County Sheriff Barb Erdman told the Herald in August he was back at work later that week.
"I'm really glad the deputy wasn't more seriously injured," Raterman said Wednesday.
At a Wednesday court hearing, Clausen was arraigned on three federal charges: assault of a federal agent, damaging an aircraft in special jurisdiction and discharging a firearm while committing a crime of violence. The U.S. District Court of Minnesota entered a not guilty plea on his behalf as Clausen had refused to submit a plea.
Charges of attempted murder, firing on a peace officer and use of a dangerous weapon were originally filed Aug. 9 in Clearwater County District Court.
During Wednesday's federal hearing in St. Paul, Clausen requested to represent himself and filed a motion to dismiss his charges saying the District Court should maintain jurisdiction over the crime.
On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Richard Kyle recused himself from hearing the case and asked that it be reassigned.
Clausen is being held in the Sherburne County Jail in Elk River, Minn., about 225 miles away from Clearbrook.