A woman shot by her ex-husband at her rural Pine County home sent a text message to a friend pleading for help, triggering a SWAT standoff and possibly saving her life.
According to the Pine County Sheriff's Office, a 911 call was received at 9:16 p.m. Wednesday reporting a shooting on the 29000 block of Sunny Hill Road. The caller said she had received a text message from a woman who had been shot by her ex-husband, 55-year-old Daniel Shilts, who was still inside the house.
Deputies from Pine and Chisago counties responded to the scene and established a perimeter around the house. Shilts eventually stepped out onto the front porch, but went back inside and turned off all of the lights.
A short time later Shilts' vehicle was found parked at a seasonal cabin a quarter mile from the Sunny Hill Road address.
Members of the Pine County SWAT team entered the house and found 55-year-old Dawn Christen in the bathroom with a gunshot wound to her chest. She was rushed to St. Mary's Hospital in Duluth in serious condition.She has since been upgraded to stable condition.
Shilts was cornered in the living room by officers who attempted to convince him to surrender. After about two hours of talks, he shot himself and died at the scene.
The investigation up to this point indicates that Shilts forced entry into a back door of the house before Dawn Christen arrived home. He confronted her when she got home and shot her in the chest. Christen then fled to a bathroom and sent a text message to the original caller.
There were no active restraining or protection orders against Shilts, and the two had been divorced for about a year; however, she had been asking neighbors to keep an eye on her -- and her home -- throughout the past few weeks because Shilts had begun making unwelcomed visits.
"I don't think the divorce went that well," Don Carter told FOX 9 News. "She ended up being able to keep the house, of course -- because it was hers originally, and I don't think he was happy with that. He'd built a big pole barn back there so he felt he should've had something out of it."
Although Pine County officials say they had no contact with Shilts before Wednesday, Carter said Chisten was working on getting a restraining order.
"She didn't want anything to do with him," he explained. "She was afraid of him."
Carter is one of Chisten's closest friends, and he told FOX 9 News it may take awhile for her to recover from all the trauma she's endured over the past two years.
"If it wasn't for my wife -- yeah, I don't think she'd be here," Carter confided.
Carter said he is relieved he did not lose his friend of almost 15 years, but added that she'd been living alone in fear inside her rural home because Shilts had begun making unwelcome visits, worried Shilts might do exactly what he did on Wednesday.
"The text said, 'Danny just shot me,' and so I jumped up and put my pants on and ran outside," he recalled.
By the time Carter arrived, deputies were already rescuing Chisten from the upstairs bathroom floor. Now, Carter said he hopes this isn't too much for the woman who lost her son to a car crash just two years ago.