Northern Minnesota deputy, game warden witness baby born in seat of van

DEER RIVER — Minnesota conservation officer Vinny Brown had already had a busy opening day of the 2023 Minnesota deer season Saturday, making one bust for illegal cutting of birch trees and then an arrest of a felon possessing a firearm.

He really didn’t need the added headache of watching a van passing him, making erratic maneuvers, on Minnesota Highway 46 near Squaw Lake just as evening was setting in.

Brown, who had the felon handcuffed in the passenger seat next to him in the front, was driving south from Alvwood, near the Hoot-N-Holler bar — when the van passed him “in a pretty unsafe manner.”

“It was snowing, and the roads were starting to get slushy, and I thought it wasn’t a good time for a possible impaired driver, especially with kids in the back seat of the van,” Brown said.

Brown, who patrols the woods and waters around Northome in southwest Koochiching County for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, followed the van south, as he was already heading to Grand Rapids to drop off the prisoner at the Itasca County Jail. He hesitated on pulling the van over and instead called for backup, with Itasca County Deputy Derek Hanson just 15 minutes away.

“I really didn’t want to make a traffic stop with a prisoner on board, so lucky there was a deputy not too far off,” Brown said.

Hanson initiated the traffic stop, and the van pulled into the parking lot of the Gosh Dam Place, a popular bar and eatery near Lake Winnibigoshish.

And that’s when and where the baby was born. The parking lot of the Gosh Dam Place.

“I had just pulled into the parking lot behind them, and (Hanson) came over and said, ‘Vinny, we have to deliver a baby. It’s coming right now,’ ” Brown told the News Tribune.

Turns out the van’s driver had been the pregnant woman’s mother and was trying to rush her to the nearest hospital for the delivery. The woman’s other children were in the back seat.

Hanson rushed to his squad to get rubber gloves, and the officers went to the front seat of the van to assist.

“But it was already done. That fast. … The mother had the baby sitting in the front seat of the van all by herself. We didn’t have to do anything, really,” Brown said. The baby “was pretty gray and wet, and the umbilical cord was still attached, of course.”

Brown, a three-year veteran of the DNR conservation officer force and a 13-year law enforcement officer, tried to calm the mother and grandmother, who were worried that the baby wasn’t breathing properly.

“I’ve never delivered a baby, and I’m pretty sure (Hanson) never has either, but I know if it was crying, it was OK, and it was crying,’’ Brown said.

The mother had already wrapped the baby up and a Deer River ambulance arrived shortly, along with Itasca County Deputy Nick O’Toole.

“So they had it under control and I went back to delivering my prisoner,” Brown said.

As far as Brown knows, the mother and the baby were rushed to the hospital in Grand Rapids and are doing fine.

All in a day’s work — a deer hunting season’s opening day’s work — for a Minnesota game warden.

“I’m just glad we didn’t have to actually deliver that baby,” Brown said. “That’s not what we normally do.”

“Last I heard, they were healthy,” Brown added. “Baby was a girl.”

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