Duluth police confirm murder-suicide in East Hillside
According to police, Brandon Taylor Cole-Skogstad shot four family members, a dog, and then himself.
DULUTH — Police confirmed Thursday afternoon that 29-year-old Brandon Taylor Cole-Skogstad shot dead four relatives, a dog and then himself on Wednesday in the East Hillside neighborhood.
According to a press release from the Duluth Police Department on Thursday, the victims are Sadie Lucille Barry, 9; Shiway Elizabeth Barry, 12; Riana Lou Barry, 44; and Sean Christopher Barry, 47, all of Duluth. The two children were homeschooled, but had previously attended Duluth Public Schools.
Cole-Skogstad was the nephew of Sean and Riana Barry. Police believe he was previously living with the family.
"In 32 years, we haven't seen anything like this, where we've had four victims of a homicide," Duluth Police Chief Mike Tusken said at a news conference Thursday afternoon.
Shortly after noon Wednesday, Duluth police responded to the report of an individual, Cole-Skogstad, experiencing a mental health crisis. The call originated just after 11:18 a.m. in Hermantown as a welfare check.
Cole-Skogstad had posted on Facebook that “I have made the absolutely horrid choice,” before outlining the unspeakable scene confronted by authorities Wednesday.
Hermantown police were dispatched to the 4100 block of Timber Lane Drive to check on Cole-Skogstad, but they were unable to locate or contact him.
Duluth police, who received information that Cole-Skogstad had access to a weapon, approached the house at 715 E. 12th St. in East Hillside at 12:29 p.m. As they knocked on the door, officers heard what they believed to be a gunshot. Police retreated and requested mutual aid from the St. Louis County Sheriff's Office and Superior Police Department.
Shortly after 3 p.m., the Duluth Police Department Tactical Team searched the house after using robots and drones to assess the home, and located five bodies and the family dog, all dead, the release said.
After a preliminary investigation, police determined that Cole-Skogstad shot the victims while they were sleeping. A 9-millimeter handgun was found close to Cole-Skogstad. Duluth and Hermantown police searched 911 history and did not find any previous calls showing a pattern of behavior regarding Cole-Skogstad.
"I've got to tell you, it's tough on all of us," Tusken said as he choked up at Thursday's press conference. "It's tough on our cops. Our police officers, a lot of them may have families. Any time you go into a situation like this and you see that tragedy, it is terribly heart-wrenching. And you can't unsee it."
Duluth City Council President Arik Forsman also spoke Thursday, stating the event has been heart-shattering for the entire community and praised the Duluth Police Department's available trauma response resources for responding officers.
"Things like this happen far too often in our country, and as leaders at the local, state and federal levels, we just have to pause and reflect when things like this happen to see what else could be done, either in prevention, or as far as gun violence goes, to make our community safer,” Forsman said.
Tusken said there were no calls to report gunshots throughout the night, and all four Barry family members appeared to have been asleep at their time of death.
"These are really difficult investigations, and sometimes it is very hard to peel back those layers to find out (a motive)," Tusken said. "Right now, it would be entirely speculative for me to say what that motive is."
A GoFundMe page was started by family and friends of the Barry family to raise funds for funeral services, burial, memorials and family lodging and travel to Duluth. GoFundMe organizer Sonja Winder-Marifke said she grew up with Riana and that she's always been a close family friend. She said a lot of the family live out of the area and they need support through this difficult time.
"They were a truly special family who impacted the lives of so many of those around them," the organizers wrote on the fundraising website, which has a goal to raise $50,000. "They leave behind their mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, nieces, nephews and many many friends. Family are not prepared for this horrible tragedy."
Duluth Public Schools Superintendent John Magas said the two children were former elementary students in the district, and grief resources will be available beginning Monday.
Duluth Mayor Emily Larson, who is out of town for a conference, released the following statement about the incident:
“On every level, this incident is deeply painful for our community. Especially impacted are the neighbors of East Hillside and first responders. Thank you to neighbors for taking good care of one another and for knowing the beautiful parts of the Barry family. Thank you to DPD for answering the call of public safety. I’m sorry for what you experienced, which is deeply traumatic.
"As a parent and member of a family, it is wrenching to consider what the Barry family might be feeling. There is only loss to every part of this story. To the Barry family: Our community mourns with you and we share in your pain. Because your loss is our community’s loss."
The investigation is ongoing.
This story was last updated at 6 p.m. April 21 to add video from the Thursday press conference. It was originally posted at 9:18 a.m. April 21.