DEER RIVER – Minnesota Conservation Officer Vinny Brown already had a busy opening day of the 2023 Minnesota deer season on Saturday, with an arrest for illegal birch tree felling and the arrest of a felon in possession of a firearm.
He really didn’t need an extra headache when he saw a van driving erratically on Minnesota Highway 46 near Squaw Lake just as evening was falling.
Brown, with the criminal handcuffed in the front passenger seat, was driving south from Alvwood, near the Hoot-N-Holler bar – when the van drove past him “in a fairly unsafe manner.”
“It was snowing and the roads were starting to get muddy, and I thought it wasn’t a good time for a potentially impaired driver, especially with children in the back seat of the van,” Brown said.
Brown, who patrols the forests and waters around Northome in southwestern Koochiching County for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, followed the van south because he was already on his way to Grand Rapids to drop the prisoner off at the Itasca County Jail. He was hesitant to stop the van and instead called for backup since Itasca County Deputy Derek Hanson was only 15 minutes away.
“I really didn’t want to do a traffic stop with a prisoner on board, so I was lucky that a police officer wasn’t too far away,” Brown said.
Hanson initiated the traffic stop and the van pulled into the parking lot of Gosh Dam Place, a popular bar and restaurant near Lake Winnibigoshish.
And then and there the baby was born. The Gosh Dam Place parking lot.
“I had just pulled into the parking lot behind them and (Hanson) came over and said, ‘Vinny, we have a baby to deliver.’ “It’s coming right now,” Brown told the News Tribune.
It turned out that the driver of the van was the pregnant woman’s mother and was trying to take her to the nearest hospital to give birth. The woman’s other children were in the back seat.
Hanson rushed to his squad to get rubber gloves, and officers went to the front seat of the van to help him.
“But it was already finished. So fast. …The mother left the baby sitting all alone in the front seat of the van. We didn’t really have to do anything,” Brown said. The baby “was pretty gray and wet, and of course the umbilical cord was still attached.”
Brown, a three-year veteran of the DNR conservation force and 13-year law enforcement officer, tried to calm the mother and grandmother, who feared the baby wasn’t breathing properly.
“I’ve never given birth to a baby, and I’m pretty sure (Hanson) has never given birth either, but I know if he cried, it was OK, and he cried.” said Brown.
The mother had already packed the baby and a Deer River ambulance arrived shortly after, along with Itasca County Deputy Nick O’Toole.
“So they had it under control and I went back to handing over my prisoner,” Brown said.
As far as Brown knows, the mother and baby were taken to the hospital in Grand Rapids and are doing well.
All in one day of work – the opening day of a deer hunting season – for a Minnesota game warden.
“I’m just glad we didn’t actually have to deliver the baby,” Brown said. “This isn’t what we normally do.”
“Last I heard they were healthy,” Brown added. “Baby was a girl.”