Inmate dead at Stillwater prison, cause of death under investigation


No details are available about the death of Steven Stanke, a Stillwater inmate who killed a police officer during a high-speed chase in 2005. Minnesota Department of Corrections

An inmate housed at Stillwater prison in Bayport died on November 1.

The Minnesota Department of Corrections identified him as 39-year-old Steven Douglas Stanke of South Dakota, who has been incarcerated since 2006. The department declined to say whether foul play is suspected, or if Stanke had medical issues leading up to his death. The Ramsey County Medical Examiner's Office confirmed that an investigation is ongoing pending toxicology reports, which can take up to 6-8 weeks.

Stanke pleaded guilty in 2006 to fleeing police in a motor vehicle, resulting in the death of Lino Lakes Police Officer Shawn Silvera.

On September 6, 2005, Stanke was wanted for several burglaries in South Dakota and driving a stolen car on I-35W during rush hour. Stanke, a meth user, had been awake for about two weeks when police spotted his car.

As police began to tail him, Stanke led them on a high-speed chase, averaging 100 miles per hour while speaking on a cell phone, occasionally steering with his knee while injecting himself with meth.

About 14 miles into the chase, Officer Silvera laid tire-deflation sticks across the highway and positioned himself near the shoulder as Stanke approached. Stanke turned his car into Silvera as he drove up, throwing the officer more than 300 feet into a ditch. Afterward, Stanke's vehicle collided with another car, injuring the driver.

Stanke was sentenced to 40 years in prison, more than double the maximum amount under state sentencing guidelines. In 2009, he challenged his sentence as too harsh, but lost an appeal that reached the Minnesota Supreme Court, which wrote in its majority decision: "The facts here are so atypical and particularly egregious that they justify affirming Stanke's sentence."

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