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BEMIDJI — David Brian Donnell Jr., who fatally shot Red Lake tribal police officer Ryan Bialke in July 2021, was sentenced to 37 years in prison on Tuesday morning in U.S. District Court here — a shorter stay than the life imprisonment Bialke's family wanted.

Before Chief U.S. District Judge John R. Tunheim delivered the sentence, 17 of Bialke's friends, family members and former colleagues provided victim impact statements — some sad, some angry, some listing the milestones where Bialke has already been missed. His daughter started elementary school; his sons were baptized. Deer hunting season has come and gone.

Donnell's supporters and those grieving Bialke sat in tightly packed rows — in some cases mingling. Deputies from the Beltrami County Sheriff's Office lined two walls of the courtroom.

Donnell, 30, will be released from prison by the time he is in his mid-60s and then on supervised release for five years. This offers incentive to take care of himself by exercising, saving money, developing a plan and staying connected to his family, Tunheim said.

"No one will be satisfied by the sentence," Tunheim predicted. "It is justified. I don't believe in a lifetime of warehousing Mr. Donnell."

Daniel Bialke, the late officer's younger brother, shook his head when the sentence was delivered. With just 14 months separating them, the brothers were treated like twins, he said during his victim impact statement.

"Besides losing my brother, the hardest part is watching our grieving mother bury her own son," he said.

The family declined to comment on Donnell's sentence.

Ryan Bialke was one of five officers to respond to a welfare check at Donnell's home on the Red Lake Indian Reservation on July 27, 2021. Donnell, who was reportedly using drugs and suicidal, went inside the house when officers arrived. Bialke, who knew there was a tribal warrant out for Donnell, kicked down the front door. He was met with gunfire and died immediately.

Donnell, who pleaded guilty to one count of second-degree murder in April 2022, went to his grandmother's house and gave up his weapon. He surrendered to officers alongside his mother on the driveway soon after the 4-minute shooting spree that killed Bialke.

Bialke's friends and family described him as always having a joke. He loved being a father, he loved his job, and he loved Buffalo Wild Wings. He was willing to drive seven hours in a blizzard to bring his brother home from college. His former colleagues suspect that he used his large frame — he was often described as a teddy bear — to shield them from the more than 22 shots Donnell fired at him that day.

"I trusted him with my life," said officer Alea Richardson, who worked alongside Bialke for years and was directly behind him at Donnell's home. "I still don't know how to do my job without him."

Hester Bialke was married to Ryan Bialke just 66 days, though they had been together for four years. She said she received a text from him that morning when she was driving their daughter to school.

"Good morning, my beautiful wife," it said. "I love you more than words can speak."

She still regrets that she was unable to respond.

Since Bialke has been gone, his sons have dedicated championship soccer matches to him, and his niece took on his badge number for her hockey jersey. A nephew has decided he, too, will become a police officer.

Donnell was led in and out of the courtroom by U.S. marshals, his hands cuffed behind his back. He wore a plaid shirt, his hair slicked back. On the way in, one of his relatives waved, and he offered a slight tilt of a smile. He stayed focused on those delivering impact statements but occasionally looked down at the table in front of him.

Jeff Donnell offered context to his nephew's dark spiral, which seemingly started eight years ago when David Donnell found his father, his idol, after he had killed himself. David Donnell quit playing sports. He drifted from his family; he started using drugs. All around him, people continued to die; his mental health suffered. Jeff Donnell said his nephew was remorseful about Bialke's death — and so is the rest of the family.

Donnell spoke briefly, first apologizing to the Bialke family, then his own.

"I truly am remorseful," he said.

Donnell's family did not comment after the sentencing.

David Donnell left the courtroom to callouts from friends and family: "Love you, Dave," and "Love you, brother."

"I'm sorry to all you people," Donnell said as he was led away.