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6-year veteran OK after shotgun slug rips into neck

Chuck Backes had a good day Monday. "Good" being a relative term, considering he was hit in the neck with a shotgun slug Sunday. "I'm certainly happy to be here," Backes said Monday afternoon at Fargo's MeritCare Hospital....

Chuck Backes had a good day Monday.

"Good" being a relative term, considering he was hit in the neck with a shotgun slug Sunday.

"I'm certainly happy to be here," Backes said Monday afternoon at Fargo's MeritCare Hospital.

Backes was released from the hospital a few hours after recounting Sunday's harrowing episode.

The six-year veteran of the Minnesota State Patrol said he was driving home to Sabin, Minn., from his grandparents' 60th wedding anniversary in Litchfield, Minn., about 4 p.m. Sunday when the side window of his pickup exploded.


The 32-year-old said he realized immediately that he had been shot in the neck.

When he looked in a mirror he could see that blood was oozing, not gushing, from the wound.

"I figured I had a chance," he said.

His fiancee, Jenny Young, 25, was sitting next to him in the pickup's cab when the window shattered.

Backes said he grabbed a blanket and pushed it against the wound while Young phoned authorities and told them what had happened.

"It was scary. It was surreal," Young said.

Backes said he determined he was alert enough to drive himself to nearby Benson, Minn., where he was given immediate medical care before being airlifted to MeritCare.

In Fargo, Backes was evaluated by Dr. Stephen Stromstad, a vascular and general surgeon.


Stromstad said tests showed the shotgun slug had not seriously damaged any major blood vessels or muscles when it entered the left side of Backes' neck and became lodged behind a muscle on the right side of his neck.

The question, Stromstad said, was whether to remove the slug or leave it where it was.

He said the decision was made to remove the projectile, the tip of which had flattened to the diameter of a quarter when it hit the pickup's window.

"He (Backes) was the luckiest man in Minnesota yesterday," Stromstad said.

The slug is being analyzed by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.

Capt. Bruce Hentges of the State Patrol said a Department of Natural Resources aircraft happened to be in the area where the incident took place and officials pinpointed the locations of hunters.

Swift County Sheriff's Department deputies interviewed a number of hunters and confiscated a number of 12-gauge shotguns, Hentges said.

The case will be reviewed by the Swift County Attorney's Office for possible charges, he said.


Backes said there was a row of trees on one side of the highway where the shooting occurred but otherwise the area was marked by open fields. He said it should have been clear to any hunters in the area that a state highway was nearby.

Backes said he doesn't believe someone intentionally tried to shoot him. "With a shotgun slug? It would take someone who is an incredible marksman," Backes said.

Backes said his trooper's training helped him survive the situation, but he said he's always been "a pretty calm, cool, collected person."

In August, Backes was given the State Patrol's Life Saving Award for reviving a child involved in a rollover crash on Interstate 94.

In February 2001, Backes was injured when a drunken driver struck his police cruiser from behind on Eighth Street South in Moorhead.

As a result of that incident, Backes said he will undergo total hip replacement surgery some time after he and Young are married Dec. 3.

Backes' parents, Will and Bernie Backes of Grand Rapids, Minn., said their son has always been someone who can be relied on in a tough situation.

"He's very calm under stress," Bernie Backes said.


Will Backes said he doesn't worry about his son working as a state trooper, adding that everyday life holds risks for everyone.

"We can't determine our fate," he said. "It's in somebody else's hands."

Readers can reach Moorhead Bureau Chief Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555

I'm a reporter and a photographer and sometimes I create videos to go with my stories.

I graduated from Minnesota State University Moorhead and in my time with The Forum I have covered a number of beats, from cops and courts to business and education.

I've also written about UFOs, ghosts, dinosaur bones and the planet Pluto.

You may reach me by phone at 701-241-5555, or by email at dolson@forumcomm.com
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