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Finland man faces five charges after gun threats, 13-hour manhunt

Mark Alan Wherley

A Finland man faces five charges after allegedly confronting a neighbor with two firearms, discharging several rounds in the process, and subsequently threatening to shoot law enforcement officers during a 13-hour manhunt on Sunday.

Mark Alan Wherley allegedly hid in a neighbor's garage and approached him with a pistol and an AR-15 rifle, firing five or six shots into the woods before fleeing on an all-terrain vehicle. He was found under a tarp on another neighbor's property and taken into custody early Monday morning after an extensive search by numerous area law enforcement agencies.

Wherley, 61, was arraigned Wednesday in State District Court in Two Harbors on three felony charges — two counts of second-degree assault and one count of threats of violence. He also faces a gross misdemeanor charge of carrying a pistol without a permit and a misdemeanor count of fleeing on foot.

Sixth Judicial District Judge Michael Cuzzo ordered that he be held on $150,000 bail.

According to the Lake County Sheriff's Office and a criminal complaint filed with the court:

The neighbor called 911 at about 12:40 p.m. to report that Wherley had emerged from his garage with a gun. The man said he had just pulled into his driveway off State Highway 1 when Wherley exited the garage carrying a Glock pistol.

The victim reported that Wherley repeatedly directed profanity-laced insults at him and refused to put down the weapon. At one point, he said, Wherley pointed the weapon toward the woods and fired five or six shots.

When the victim stated that he was going to call the police, Wherley walked toward his ATV that was parked nearby and retrieved an AR-15. The victim reported that Wherley was pointing the weapon at him while he was on the phone with a 911 dispatcher.

The neighbor said Wherley eventually put the rifle back in his ATV trailer and left on the machine. Authorities did not disclose any motive for the incident.

While deputies canvassed the area and set up a perimeter around Wherley's residence, Lake County Sheriff Carey Johnson was able to make phone contact with the defendant. Johnson said Wherley admitted to pointing a firearm at the victim and firing several shots into the woods, then started issuing threats toward the approaching officers.

"You just want to arrest me and take me to jail," he allegedly told the sheriff, "but I am not going to let that happen."

Wherley allegedly added: "Don't try to capture me. I am going to have to shoot you. ...If you think you are going to capture me, you have another thing coming. You are going down."

Lake County officials called in additional resources and continued talking with Wherley by phone. At about 3:30 p.m., he left his residence on foot and went into the woods. Eventually the defendant stopped answering his phone; authorities later learned he had dropped and lost the phone while on foot.

Several outside agencies were brought in to assist, including the St. Louis County Sheriff's Office, Duluth and Silver Bay police departments, and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

A Lake County deputy reported seeing Wherley around 6 p.m., ordering him to stop and display his hands, but the defendant ran back into the woods.

Around 12:30 a.m., a deputy stationed inside another neighbor's residence on Klinker Road reported seeing Wherley crawling across the yard toward the residence.

Members of the St. Louis County Emergency Response Team and the Duluth police Tactical Response Team closed in on his location, finding him under a tarp and arresting him with the assistance of a K-9 unit.

Temperatures at the time were near zero, and Wherley was taken to Lake View Hospital in Two Harbors to be evaluated for potential hypothermia before being booked into the Lake County Jail.

Authorities later executed a search warrant at Wherley's Klinker Road home, seizing 49 functional firearms. They also determined that the defendant did not possess a permit to carry a pistol.

Wherley's next court appearance is scheduled for Monday.