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BCA: Wright County Sgt., undercover St. Cloud officer fired weapons during St. Michael standoff

At a hearing for Brandon Gardas Monday, a judge issued $5 million bail or bond with conditions, including no use/possession of firearms or weapons.

ST MICHAEL, Minn. — *Editor's note: The above video first aired Monday, June 27, 2022.

A sergeant with the Wright County Sheriff's Office and an undercover officer with the St. Cloud Police Department each fired their weapon during a near two-day standoff in St. Michael, according to officials.

Court documents say the standoff began Tuesday, June 21 at around 4:30 p.m. after 39-year-old Brandon Gardas refused to leave his home on the 500 block of Central Avenue West in St. Michael. Officers were attempting to arrest Gardas on several outstanding warrants, including possession of a firearm by a person convicted of a violent crime. 

During the standoff, court documents say that responding officials, which included the Wright County Emergency Response Team and SWAT, surrounded the property and used audible commands and warnings, in addition to chemical agents, to try to get Gardas to exit the home. The criminal complaint says they eventually began "tactically dismantling the residence by removing exterior windows and portions of the home."

Around 6 p.m. Tuesday, Gardas' 13-year-old son exited the home. The criminal complaint said that his wife and other children were not inside the house at the time.

The standoff ended around 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday, June 22 after officers with the Wright County Sheriff's Office, St. Cloud Police Department and Stearns County Sheriff's Office entered the home. According to a criminal complaint, Gardas shot at officers while inside the home, prompting police to return fire. Gardas was shot in the upper chest but refused to surrender or comply until officers used a non-lethal 40 mm round from a foam baton and Taser to arrest him, the documents said.

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On Wednesday, July 28, the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) said it was an undercover St. Cloud Police officer who fired his rifle while entering the home. Due to the officer being undercover, the BCA is prohibited from releasing their identity under Minnesota Statute 13.82, subd, 17(a). At this time, it's unclear who fired the non-lethal 40 mm foam baton round and Taser.

An earlier shooting involving law enforcement occurred at around 11:55 p.m. Tuesday, June 22 when a sergeant with the Wright County Sheriff's Office, later identified by the BCA as Sgt. Robert Gongol, returned fire after Gardas shot at a SWAT vehicle. According to the BCA, Gardas was not hit during this exchange.

The BCA says Gongol has been with the Wright County Sheriff's Office for 15 years.

Officials say Gardas was released from the hospital on Friday, June 24 and was booked into the Wright County Jail where he is charged with two counts of attempted first-degree murder of a peace officer, two counts of first-degree assault using deadly force, possession of a firearm after being convicted of a crime, second-degree drug possession, fifth-degree drug possession and making violent threats. 

Officials recovered an arsenal of weapons in the house, including three AK-47s, three AR-15s, multiple handguns, more than 12,400 rounds of various caliber ammunition, and ballistic gear, the complaint said. Officers also found more than 320 grams of plant cannabis, 26.2 grams of cannabis wax and more than 70 grams of psilocybin mushrooms.

Gardas had a bail hearing Monday, June 27 where a judge issued $5 million bail or bond with conditions, including no use/possession of firearms or weapons. The judge issued $10 million bail or bond with no conditions. 

The county has not specified the date of his next court appearance.

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