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Stillwater man gets 36 years for holding hostages in Woodbury motel

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A gunman who held 11 people hostage in a Woodbury motel room last year received the maximum sentence of 36 years from a Washington County judge Monday.

The Associated Press reports Demetrius Ballinger, 26, had pleaded guilty to attempted murder and to sexually assaulting four teenage girls during the standoff.

After a SWAT team had surrounded the Red Roof Inn one of the hostages, Mark Henderson, Jr., tried to escape and was shot by Ballinger and by police.

The Pioneer Press reports victim impact statements from the parents of Henderson and of the girls Ballinger assaulted were read in court, after which Ballinger asked Judge Ellen Maas to give him a life sentence. The newspaper reports Judge Maas said she couldn't do that, but she did make his sentences consecutive and said Ballinger will be on probation for the rest of his life.

The Star Tribune describes the incident on August 31, 2012, as a party that went sour when Ballinger pulled a gun and began assaulting the girls, who were 16 and 15. Washington County Attorney Pete Orput told the paper “Very seldom do we see a case where so many innocents are victimized in such a cruel manner.”

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A 19-year-old man police shot and killed in a standoff at a Woodbury motel early Friday was one of the hostages who escaped from the alleged gunman at the motel, the Star Tribune reports. According to police, Mark Eric Henderson was shot by officers as he emerged from the motel room, walked toward them and did not comply with their commands. Officers reportedly believed that Henderson was armed -- but he was not -- and now the victim's family wants answers.