Emma LaRoque was the daughter of a Minnesota tribal police chief who is accused of killing her two young sons before fatally shooting herself, authorities say. The 28-year-old woman, whose father, Michael LaRoque, leads the White Earth Nation police department, was found dead with her two children at their home on Monday, March 18, the Minnesota Department of Public Safety said in a press release.
The Ramsey County Medical Examiner’s office says LaRoque died of suicide at her rural Ogema home as a result of a gunshot wound. Her 9-year-old son, Shane Woods, and 4-year-old son, Frederick York, were also found dead in the home, which is located in Becker County, Minnesota.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Police Say Emma LaRoque’s Children Died of ‘Homicidal Violence,’ but Details of How They Were Killed Have Not Been Released as the Investigation Continues
Authorities say Emma LaRoque died of suicide, while her sons, Shane Woods, 9, and Frederick York, 4, died of “homicidal violence.” Details of how the children died have not been made public as the investigation continues. The Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is leading the probe. Police do not believe there is a threat to the public and they are not searching for any suspects after the deaths were determined to be a likely double murder-suicide, according to Detroit Lakes Online.
LaRoque and her sons were found dead Monday, March 18 at their home on Beaver Trail in Ogema, Minnesota. According to her Facebook page, Emma LaRoque graduated from Cass Lake High School in 2008. She then studied at Itasca Community College in Grand Rapids, Minnesota.
2. Members of the Community Expressed ‘Shock’ About What Happened & Said They Are ‘Absolutely Devastated’
Members of the White Earth Nation community were stunned by the news of the double murder-suicide. “Everybody is in shock and awe,” Liz King, who lives nearby, told Detroit Lakes Online. “It’s terrible that this family of three had to be gone that soon.”
Tabashish Anamiki Ogitchida, who lived near LaRoque, told the Minnesota Star Tribune, “She was a good mom.”
Valley News Live reported that “nobody had anything bad to say” about LaRoque and said ” “the whole tribe” was “feeling like they got sucker punched in the stomach.”
3. Michael LaRoque Has Been the White Earth Nation Director of Public Safety Since 2015
Michael LaRoque has been the director of public safety for the White Earth Nation tribe since 2015. He took over the police department at a time of hardships for the White Earth Nation department, as he has dealt with budget cuts and battled the scourge of heroin and drug abuse in his community, something he has called a “public health crisis.”
In 2016, LaRoque first spoke out after eight near-death heroin overdoses in a three-day period. “We want these communities to take their communities back, and stop these drugs from coming into these communities. And we gotta understand that law enforcement cannot do this alone, we do need the communities’ support to combat this, what’s going on here with this drug epidemic,” LaRoque told the Grand Forks Herald.
In December 2017, seven overdoses were reported in a 48-hour period. “While we are committed to arresting those who sell and possess illegal drugs, we are also mindful of the need for treatment for addiction. We want to encourage heroin users as well as other substance abusers to seek help,” LaRoque told WTVA-TV at the time. A 23-year-old woman died earlier in 2017 of an overdose. The tribe receive a grant to help with opioid addiction treatment and in training for usage of Narcan, an overdose reversal drug.
LaRoque has called for more economic development to help the community. “In each of our communities, people have to drive so far for employment,” he said in January 2019. “Jobs in the area are scarce. The largest employer is Shooting Star Casino, but more are needed. If you have economic development, then you can have a better way of life.”
The community is rallying around Mike LaRoque and his family.
“It’s a pretty tight-knit,” Ogema resident Andy Roy told Valley News Live. “Everybody knows everybody. I’m devastated for him. It really breaks my heart that his family is going through the tragedy… I don’t wish it upon anybody.”
4. The Tribe Says It Will Focus on the Family’s ‘Beautiful Souls’
A spokesperson for the White Earth Nation said in a Facebook video, “During this time we want to stay clear of re-traumatizing our community, therefore we need to focus on the facts, maintain caution and use safe messaging to minimize the ripple effect.” The tribe plans to focus on the family’s “beautiful souls,” and not how they died.
“As adults we have a hard time making sense of this loss, at the same time we have to be mindful of how it’s impacting out little ones,” the spokesperson said. She said they “are people of the heart” so children should be talked to about the sadness they feel, but not the details of the deaths.
5. The White Earth Nation, Which Also Just Lost Its Chairman to Cancer, Is Offering Counseling & Other Mental Health Services to Members of the Community After the Tragedy
The tragedy involving the LaRoque family comes after the White Earth Nation lost its chairman, Terry Tibbetts, to cancer days earlier. Tibbetts had led Minnesota’s largest tribe since 2016 and worked in public service for the White Earth Nation for 33 years. The community is offering counseling and other mental health services.
“We are experiencing extreme trauma and crisis, so we just want to be supportive to those who are immediately impacted,” Verna Mikkelson, White Earth Mental Health Crisis Program coordinator, told Detroit Lakes Online. “(It’s) more than an individual can handle on a normal level.”
The tribe said in a press release, “Our hearts are heavy. We are praying for the families of our tribal leader and for the tragic loss of our community members. We will continue to move forward as a people. We will heal together and we will unify. Remembering our chairman and our loved ones is essential to our healing. We ask for the continuation of prayers for our people.”
If you are having thoughts of suicide or are concerned for someone else, please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 800-273-TALK (8255).