Shady Oaks shooter gets 50 years in prison
Published 6:15 pm Tuesday, February 28, 2023
A Freeborn County District Court judge on Tuesday sentenced the Albert Lea man convicted of shooting three people during an eight-hour standoff in November 2020 at Shady Oaks apartments to a combined 50 years in prison for decisions she described as “targeted” and “calculated.”
Devin Michael Weiland, 23, will serve 200 months consecutively for each of the people shot after a jury found him guilty in September of three counts of attempted first-degree murder — one involving attempted murder of a peace officer and two other counts involving premeditation — along with three counts of second-degree assault.
“You directed your shots at real people trying to go about their lives in the community,” District Court Judge Christy Hormann said prior to the sentencing.
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Hormann said she hoped the three consecutive sentences capture the effect Weiland’s actions had that day, noting Weiland fired rounds out of his apartment into vehicles, a nearby home and even into an apartment across the hall from his own during the course of the standoff. She said he fired up to 90 rounds during the standoff and was lucky more people weren’t injured.
“You left the entire city of Albert Lea in fear,” Hormann said, pointing out that law enforcement sent out a text alert to the entire city to keep people from avoiding the area that morning.
Evidence during the trial showed that Weiland summoned law enforcement to the complex for a report of fireworks or gunshots in the area the morning of Nov. 29, 2020, and when the first officer — Officer Kody Needham — arrived, Weiland began firing shots out the window from his apartment on the third floor, striking Needham in the chest with a rifle.
Daniel Thorpe, who heard noises, left the Shady Oaks building because he was concerned about his vehicle, and was shot in the arm.
Another man, Preston Flink, who lived across the street from the complex, was struck by a bullet through his car door as he drove by on his way to work.
Hormann said during the course of the trial Weiland maintained that his actions were motivated by attempts to get officers to shoot him — “suicide by cop” — but if that were his true intention, the situation could have ended much sooner. And regardless, she said, it doesn’t minimize what was done. She also noted the amount of remorse Weiland showed was minimum.
“You’ve changed the lives of the individuals you’ve shot forever,” she said.
Assistant Freeborn County Attorney Abigail Lambert said prior to the sentencing that the incident shook the entire community, referencing one potential juror who had to be excused after recalling how he hid his grandchildren in the basement the morning of the shooting.
She talked about the three people who were shot, including Flink, who spent months in the hospital with additional months of rehabilitation. Those months have turned into years of healing.
Needham carries with him a scar on his chest that will forever remind him of that day, she said.
Needham, in an impact statement, said he is emotionally drained from everything that has happened and is ready to move on. Most days he feels empty, but on his worst days he wishes he was killed that day.
He said for several weeks after the incident he refused to close his eyes because of the sound of gunfire he would hear ringing in his ears.
It grew to the point he hated going to work, had horrible mood swings and was in a terrible depression, and eventually he and his wife made the decision to move to Otter Tail County, where he worked in law enforcement there. He said he thought it would help being away from Albert Lea, but his depression came back and he began to worsen. Eventually, he started getting help and started going to therapy.
He said though his life continues to be a roller coaster, it is more manageable. He still has moments of sharp pain where he was shot and still sometimes thinks of the many things that would not have happened if he were killed. That included marrying his wife, Amy, raising his daughter and experiencing the birth of his son. They have another child on the way.
Amy Needham described how much the shooting has impacted her husband and family and said her family has experienced some of the highest highs and lowest lows in the last two years.
“The impact of the trauma of the shooting has never gone away,” she said.
Sue Needham, mother to Cody Needham, said it has broken her heart to watch her son struggle through the shooting and in the two years since, and spoke about her own sleepless nights and the impact the situation has had on her son’s wife.
She said life is about choices, and Weiland made a cowardly choice that day. She said she has also struggled with the lack of regret he has shown.
Flink said he spent three months in intensive care, endured skin grafting, operations and rehabilitation to learn how to walk again.
“That took me down to the ground,” he said through tears.
He asked Hormann to sentence Weiland to three consecutive life sentences.
Albert Lea Police Sgt. Tim Harves said he was there to represent not only law enforcement and their families, but the community as well as Shady Oaks residents.
He described Weiland’s efforts to lure officers to the apartment building as “a calculated ambush” and recounted his memories of that day. He said he will never forget the sounds of the shots being fired, hearing Needham’s radio traffic that he had been shot and then waiting while under fire as they wondered how their partner was doing. He also talked about the impact of that day on the law enforcement officers’ spouses.
Harves said first responders go on calls frequently to Shady Oaks and said that year between police officers, EMS crews and firefighters, there had been 269 calls to the apartment complex before the shooting occurred.
To this day, he said there are still residents at the complex with trauma and talked about the impact the event had on the residents with having to be evacuated from their homes by SWAT vehicles.
Harves said Weiland was in complete control of his actions and did not give up until he saw his own blood.
“Each day that Devin sits in prison is a safer day for our community,” he said.
Lambert said while the pre-sentence investigation recommended Weiland receive concurrent sentences, she recommended a 216-month consecutive sentence for each person injured — or a total of 54 years.
One of Weiland’s attorneys, Krista Rissman, argued prior to sentencing that Weiland be given concurrent sentences instead of consecutive ones, describing the incident as a single course of conduct.
Rissman said her client had a zero criminal history score before this incident. She said while some may describe him as an “eccentric person,” he idolized his grandfather, liked things from World War II, had a collection of pipes and also owned an accordion. She said while he has been in jail he has been involved with numerous activities, including anger management, cognitive therapy, narcotics anonymous, Alcoholics Anonymous, Bible studies and others, and is even the jail librarian trustee.
“This one act does not encapsulate who Mr. Weiland is,” she said.
She argued that while mental health was not a defense in this case, it should be considered as a mitigating factor. She said that Weiland has received a number of diagnoses and is sometimes not able to express emotions.
Weiland, when given the opportunity to make a statement, said he has thought about his victims daily and that knowing he hurt people is worse than any sentence he could get.
“(I) hope over time people can see I’m truly sorry,” he said.
Hormann said she hoped Weiland would spend time reflecting on his actions and addressing any mental health or other underlying issues.
He will receive credit for 821 days already spent in the Freeborn County jail as of Monday.
He will also be required to pay $25,602.64 to the Albert Lea Police Department and $5,000 to the Albert Lea Housing and Redevelopment Authority.