Judge finds probable cause for two suspects accused in Town of Tainter shooting

Goplen and Blank

CAPTURED — Shawn Harris Goplen (left) and Kari Lynn Blank were taken into custody by Barron County Sheriff’s deputies at a Dollar General Store in Rice Lake. Authorities had been searching for the pair in connection with a Town of Tainter shooting.

By LeAnn R. Ralph

MENOMONIE  —  A Dunn County judge has found probable cause and has bound two suspects over for arraignment who are accused in the shooting of a Town of Tainter man May 27.

Shawn H. Goplen, 34, and Kari L. Blank, 36, appeared before Judge Rod Smeltzer in Dunn County Circuit Court June 28 for a preliminary hearing.

At a court hearing June 1, bail was set for Goplen at $25,000 cash, and bail was set for Blank at $5,000 cash.

Goplen and Blank were still in custody at the time of the preliminary hearing and had not yet posted bail.

Goplen is charged with three felony counts of a convicted felon being in possession of a firearm, substantial battery intending bodily harm, and second degree recklessly endangering safety and a misdemeanor count of intentionally pointing a firearm at a person.

Blank is charged with one felony count of possessing methamphetamine and one misdemeanor count of  failing to render aid and to report a crime.

Goplen allegedly shot Bruce R. Sundstrom of rural Colfax in the leg the evening of May 27 and then fled. Law enforcement officers spent the next several days searching for Goplen and the woman who was with him, Kari L. Blank.

Goplen and Blank eventually were apprehended at the Dollar General store in Rice Lake.

According to the criminal complaint, at around 10:42 p.m. Sunday, May 27, two deputies from the Dunn County Sheriff’s Department were dispatched to E5955 County Road D in the Town of Tainter after a 911 call reported Bruce Sundstrom, age 48, had been shot in the leg.

During the early morning hours of May 28, a search warrant was executed at E5955 County Road D, and investigators observed various drug paraphernalia throughout the residence as well as a gem pack baggie containing a white crystalized substance which later tested positive for the presence of methamphetamine.

Investigators observed, too, the chair where Sundstrom had likely been sitting when he was shot based on the blood on and around the chair. One of the investigators recovered a .45 caliber bullet from the chair, according to the complaint.

Later in the day on May 28, investigators spoke to Sundstrom at Mayo Eau Claire. Sundstrom said he lived at E5955 County Road D and that Kari Blank and her boyfriend, Shawn Goplen, also had been staying at the residence.

During the evening hours of May 27, Sundstrom had heard Blank mutter an expletive to Goplen, then Goplen came over to Sundstrom and told him to “give it up.” Sundstrom explained Goplen thought Sundstrom had stolen his methamphetamine. When Sundstrom said he did not have it, Goplen pointed a gun at Sundstrom’s leg and fired, according to the complaint.

After Sundstrom had been shot, Goplen and Blank fled from the residence in separate vehicles. While Goplen was looking for his keys, he offered to drive Sundstrom to the hospital. Sundstrom declined, and Goplen left, the complaint states.

Goplen and Blank have four minor children, and Blank is reportedly pregnant with their fifth child.

Goplen and Blank asked the judge if they could have contact with their children. Dunn County District Attorney Andrea Nodolf told Judge Smeltzer she had no objection to Blank and Goplen contacting their children.

After listening to testimony given during the preliminary hearing by Dunn County Sheriff’s Department Investigator Todd Kurtzhals, Judge Smeltzer found probable cause and scheduled an arraignment hearing in Dunn County Circuit Court July 13. 

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