Television reporter Tom Hanneman thought he was going to die on May 19, 1979 when a combatant in a violent feud between factions of the Red Lake band of the Chippewa Indians held a gun to his head and threatened to pull the trigger.
Hanneman and cameraman Keith Brown of WCCO-TV Channel 4 in Minneapolis were getting video footage of a fire on the Red Lake Indian Reservation when they were attacked by an armed 20-year-old man. While Hanneman sat in a rental car, his cameraman was outside. “We came to the main road and wanted to get a final shot,” he said at the time. “A short time later I heard a ‘smack’ like a rock hitting the pavement.
“It was a bullet. Keith said it missed his head by about two inches.”
A tribal member armed with a pistol approached the journalists and ordered Brown to smash WCCO camera equipment valued at $60,000. He then ordered the men to lie down on the road. “He tormented them by holding the gun at their heads ‘cocked back and saying he is going to blow our heads off, how would we feel,'” Hanneman said, according to an account in the Minneapolis Star. “I thought I had had it.”
While Hanneman and Brown were prone on the pavement, the man got in their car and tried to run them over. “He got in the car and started coming at us,” Hanneman said. “I got up and put my hand up and tried to talk to him. He told me to get back down. But when someone tells you to lie down and is trying to run over you, I didn’t want to stay down.”
The gunman eventually left with the rental car. A nearby family offered the journalists refuge, and then helped them get to Bemidji, Minn.
Earlier that day, an armed faction of dissidents raided the Indian Bureau of Law Enforcement building on the Red Lake reservation and took four police officers hostage. They later set fire to the building and a number of law enforcement vehicles.
On the WCCO 10 p.m. news that night, Hanneman recounted the terrifying day. A transcript of the dramatic interview is below. A video of the newscast (from TC Media) is at the end of this story.
WCCO Anchor Don Shelby: Tom, tell us your story.
Hanneman: “We found the main road leading into Red Lake was blocked by a Red Lake fire truck. We got out of the car to shoot some scenes at the police station, which was still smoldering. At that time we heard shots fired and some ricochets off the fire truck that we were standing next to. Obviously we were being shot at. We threw our hands up and a group of Indians came over and wanted to know what we were doing and we explained.
“We left that area to go and shoot some more scenes. Keith Brown drove to a back route to shoot the police station, and also a police car that was aflame, an abandoned police car. He went into the woods and came running back a few minutes later. They had fired on him and the bullets hit the water right in front of his feet.
“We had three incidents that happened this afternoon, Don, the third was by far the worst. We were about ready to leave the area and Keith was going to shoot the final shot of the main street. I was in the car. Keith was outside with the door, the back door open. At that moment I heard what sounded like a rock hitting the car. It was a bullet. It hit the door, ricocheted up and Keith said it missed his head by no more than two inches. A man again came at us with a pistol, ordered us out of the car, and at gunpoint had Keith smash our videotape camera and the tape recorder onto the road.
“He then had us lay in the road in the median, threatened to blow our heads off holding the gun at our heads, tormented us for a while and then got into our rented car, turned around toward the road, sped up — what seemed to be an obvious attempt to run us over. I got up. I just couldn’t sit there and let him go at me and he told me to lay down, and drove by and again threatened us many times with a gun to our heads. He finally left the area, telling us to stay. A short time later he drove off a few blocks and parked, went into an area.
“We got up, just, we were afraid if nothing else that a passing car might hit us. Didn’t really know what to do until someone that lived right in the area, in a trailer home, yelled for us to come over. We were a little concerned that, we didn’t know what we were getting into at the time, Don. We went into his home and (he) gave us refuge. A half-hour later took us, swept us out of town into Bemidji and we got out safely.
Don Shelby: How does it look up there now Tom, your last sight of the place?
Hanneman: “Most of the residents of Red Lake have left the area. It seems that a group of maybe 100, 150 Indians are in town. They’re all armed. It seemed to be a deserted town with just a few people running around firing guns.”
Don Shelby: How about the FBI? Have they arrived on the scene?
Hanneman: “They are there now. They have blocked off the main road into Red Lake at this time. They were nowhere to be seen at 3:30, 4 o’clock this afternoon.”
Don Shelby: You have not told your story to the FBI.
Hanneman: “No I have not. Not yet. We have just really gotten here and just starting unravel now.”
A few weeks later, the FBI arrested Gordon Wayne Roy, 20, and charged him with assault with a deadly weapon. On July 30, 1979, Roy pled guilty to one charge of assault with a deadly weapon. Five other assault charges were dismissed as part of a plea deal. Police said Roy had been in jail on the reservation when the dissidents stormed the building. They released him, and later that day he accosted Hanneman and Brown.
Five other men were convicted of various crimes in association with the armed takeover of the law enforcement building and the shooting deaths of two youths. Sentences ranged from 10 to 26 years in prison. The violence that day stemmed from a running dispute the dissidents had with long-time tribal chairman Roger Jourdain, according to news accounts.
Seven years later, in September 1986, Roy was arrested again; this time for murder. In early 1987, he was convicted of stabbing and slashing Edward White with a machete after a dispute. Roy was sentenced to life in prison.
Hanneman is a first cousin to the proprietor of this web site. He is a well-respected sportscaster in the Minneapolis TV market and beyond. For more than 20 years he was play-by-play announcer for the Minnesota Timberwolves of the National Basketball Association. He has also worked as reporter and sports anchor for CBS affiliate WCCO-TV and as an analyst for Fox Sports North. Here’s where he fits in the Hanneman tree: Matthias Hannemann >> Charles F.C. Hannemann >> Carl F. Hanneman >> Donn G. Hanneman >> Tom Hanneman.