Shooting motive remains a mystery
Police share timeline, release names of two victims, shooter
January 12, 2024
A suspected double murder/suicide at the Super 8 hotel in Cloquet Monday resulted in the death of a Cloquet woman and two male hotel guests, one of the men the killer. The shooting forced the evacuation of the hotel and nearby businesses and a community lockdown as authorities searched for a suspect.
That search ended in the hotel parking lot, where the suspected shooter was found dead with evidence suggesting a self-inflicted gunshot wound. By midweek, investigators still had no information on a motive for the shooting or whether there was a connection between the suspect and victims.
"Last night was a very difficult night for our community," said Cloquet police chief Derek Randall in a Tuesday morning news conference, as he shared details of the incident with more than a dozen newspaper, television and radio reporters gathered at Cloquet City Hall.
Calling it a tragedy, Randall said an employee of the Super 8 hotel in Cloquet called 911 at 6:34 p.m. on Jan. 8 to report that fellow hotel employee Shellby Marie Trettel had been attacked. Cloquet police arrived on scene within three minutes and found the 22-year-old with a gunshot wound. Trettel was transported by Cloquet Area Fire District ambulance to St. Luke's Hospital in Duluth, where she died from her injuries.
As officers investigated, they found Patrick Jeffrey Roers, a 35-year-old Deer River man, dead with multiple gunshot wounds in a pickup in the hotel parking lot. Roers had just started a new job and was going through training, and was staying at the Super 8.
The person identified later as the shooter, a 32-year-old man from the Twin Cities suburb of Ramsey, Nicholas Elliot Lenius, was also found dead not far away on the hotel property. Also a guest at the hotel, evidence suggested a self-inflicted gunshot wound. A handgun was located next to Lenius' body.
"The biggest concern for us was not knowing where the suspect was as we responded," Randall said, adding that police officers and Carlton County deputies were able to clear the hotel quickly.
Once the hotel was clear, police accessed hotel video and eventually determined the shooter was among the deceased and the community shelter-in-place order was lifted.
Randall said Trettel was shot first, then Roers in the vehicle. Most of the incident was captured on video, but not everything, Randall said.
"According to the video surveillance, the entire incident prior to law enforcement arriving lasted approximately 10 minutes," Randall said.
In the hours following the shooting, the parking lot outside the Super 8 and the nearby Aldi store was a sea of flashing lights, as law enforcement and emergency responders from Cloquet Area Fire District, Carlton County Sheriff's Office, St. Louis County Sheriff's Office, Minnesota State Patrol, Fond Du Lac Police, Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, Minnesota Homeland Security Emergency Management, Mayo Ambulance and staff from the Drug Enforcement Agency responded to a call for assistance by the Cloquet police Monday.
Police and investigators from the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension worked overnight and into the next day to process the crime scene. Police had not located any eyewitnesses to the shooting at the time of the press conference, Randall said.
Anyone with information about this incident is asked to contact the Cloquet Police Department at 218-879-1247 or by emailing [email protected], or texting TIP CLOQUETPD to 888777 followed by your message.
Police issued online and text warnings to residents signed up for its Nixel alerts just after 7 p.m. Monday, telling people to remain home with locked doors and to shelter in place as there was an active shooter incident in progress with the suspect still unaccounted for. Although there have been other homicides in Cloquet, it was the first shelter-in-place order Randall can remember in his 20 years with the Cloquet police department.
The warnings were repeated on radio, television and newspaper reports. WKLK operations manager Jake Kachinske was home in western Carlton County when he got the police Nixel message. He forwarded the news release to on-air sports reporters covering the South Ridge vs. Floodwood girls basketball game so they could provide information to listeners. Kachinske also interrupted programming on the station's AM station to share the news release and shelter-in-place order.
The order led to lockdowns near and far, including at nearby Northwoods Credit Union Arena and the ski chalet at Pine Valley, where jumpers were having a work day. Much farther away, school leaders also locked down the school during the Esko girls basketball game, just to be safe. Sirens could be heard outside the Cloquet school board meeting Monday night.
Cloquet police were able to direct officers who weren't needed at the scene to other locations, including the Northwoods Credit Union Arena, where fans and players had been sheltering in place.
"Those officers were able to go there and escort those folks into their vehicles and out of the area," Randall said.
The much smaller group at the nearby park dispersed once the shelter-in-place order was lifted, said coach Ken Ripp, who could see the flashing lights at the hotel from the top of the ski jump.
An additional 15-20 officers gathered around a mobile command center outside the L&M Fleet Supply store a few blocks away, where they prepared for the worst while tracking live videos from the scene on an external screen. At 8:30 p.m. commander Wade Rasch of the St. Louis County Sheriff's Office dismissed the officers at L&M and responders left the scene with the command center and a massive armored vehicle.
Both Randall and Cloquet mayor Roger Maki shared heartfelt sympathies to the families and victims of the shooting, along with thanks to the public for staying away from the crime scene.
"I'd like to thank the many law enforcement and emergency responders who went to great lengths to ensure the safety of our community," Maki said at the start of Tuesday's press conference. "These brave men and women charged with keeping our community safe in instances like these continue to rush into situations like these with public and community safety as their priority."
Randall said the assistance from so many agencies that responded was vital.
"It's a tragedy," he said. "We plan for these types of situations and hope that it doesn't happen in your community. When that call came out, the Sheriff's Office, Fond du Lac PD, State Patrol - all of our closest partners - were on their way. The St. Louis County emergency response team came ... and from there it was just nonstop calls of support to ask what we needed. I'm really grateful for the partnerships that we have in our community and our region."
Law enforcement executed search warrants Monday night and Tuesday morning, Randall said, also confirming that police had personal possessions of the shooter and victims, including cell phones, that might shed light on what led to the shooting.
The names of those involved in the deadly shooting were released Wednesday. Family and friends of Trettel posted tributes online Tuesday afternoon.
Randall said a psychologist that works with public safety in the region came to the staging area, and attended a debriefing afterward for law enforcement and first responders.
"I assume there will be crisis meetings down the road," Randall said.
Additionally, the police chief noted that the Cloquet Human Development Center was offering walk-in therapy services for anyone affected by the incident at their 1102 Cloquet Avenue offices. The local Red Cross is also available for anyone needing assistance.
Additionally, the Fond du Lac Behavioral Health Department Mobile Crisis Team is available to anyone in the community that would like to reach out for someone to talk with at 218-655-3669.
Minnesotans facing mental health crises can dial or text 988 to connect to Lifeline support 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The 988 code serves as a universal entry point, so callers can reach a trained crisis counselor who can help regardless of where they live.
Various leaders weighed in on the shooting.
"I am praying for those killed in another senseless act of gun violence tonight in Cloquet," Gov. Tim Walz posted on social media Monday. "To the law enforcement officers who responded, thank you. The state stands ready to provide continued support to local authorities."
Duluth Bishop Daniel Felton issued a statement on Tuesday.
"I am grieved to learn that the wound of deadly violence has struck the normally peaceful community of Cloquet," he wrote. "I pray that Jesus will grant salvation to the victims of this violence and healing and hope to all who mourn them. As Catholics who always seek to bring mercy, we also pray for the deceased perpetrator, that he may find forgiveness. And may the peace of Jesus Christ prevail, removing violence and hatred from every human heart."
This story contains some additional information and photos not included in the Jan. 12 print issue.