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Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Ely’s Gillson facing multiple charges

Catie Clark
Posted 9/20/23

ELY- A domestic incident here that sparked a house fire and a high-speed chase with law enforcement that ended in the woods in Waasa Township last week, has left an Ely man charged with arson, …

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Ely’s Gillson facing multiple charges


ELY- A domestic incident here that sparked a house fire and a high-speed chase with law enforcement that ended in the woods in Waasa Township last week, has left an Ely man charged with arson, assault, discharging a firearm in city limits, and fleeing from police.
Jason Gillson, age 49, was arrested on four felony counts and one misdemeanor. According to court documents, the incident began around 10 a.m., when the Ely Police Department responded to a call reporting that Gillson was arguing at a high volume with his girlfriend at his single-family residence located at 45 E. Boundary St.
The initial incident
While enroute to the scene, Ely police received a dispatch reporting a female trying to break into Gillson’s residence. When Ely Police Chief Chad Houde arrived, he found Gillson’s girlfriend sitting on the back steps with an axe next to her and broken glass. She stated she wanted to get clothes from the home. She also said that Gillson had shot her phone with a pistol, grabbed her by the shoulders and hair, and threw her out of the house. She confirmed that Gillson had firearms in the residence and said that Gillson had been drinking.
Houde called Gillson, who was still in the house. Gillson told Houde he wasn’t going to leave the house and was barricaded in his bedroom, asking “Can’t you guys just go away?” During his 14-minute call with Houde, Gillson became increasingly upset before he hung up.
At approximately 10:56 a.m., law enforcement officers observed heavy smoke from the back of the residence. Gillson abruptly exited while holding a shotgun. Police on the scene accosted Gillson, who ignored their commands. He threw the shotgun into the yard, got into a white panel truck, and fled the scene.
The pursuit
Officer Bradley Roy chased Gillson at high speeds south on Co. Rd 21 and then west on Co. Rd. 904. Roy reported that the chase approached speeds of 90 mph. The pursuit brought in assistance from multiple public safety agencies and organizations, including the St. Louis County Sheriff’s Office, the DNR’s Enforcement Division, Babbitt Police, East Range Police, Breitung Police, Ely Fire Department, and the Babbitt and Ely area ambulance services.
Gillson abandoned his vehicle on Co. Rd. 583, also known as the Virginia Ely Road, approximately 1,000 yards from the intersection with Co. Rd. 21 in Waasa Township. Photos of the panel truck taken by the Timberjay show that the left front tire was flat at the location where Gillson fled his truck on foot.
Officers eventually caught up to Gillson and DNR CO Anthony Bermel tased him in an effort to bring him under control after he refused commands.
Gillson was armed with a silver and black .38 Derringer Special with two rounds at the time of his arrest. The pistol was unholstered and found by his left hand, suggesting it was in his hand when he was tased.
After capture, Gillson was transported to Virginia for medical clearance before being booked into the county jail. During transit, despite being handcuffed, Gillson wrapped a seatbelt around his head, leading officers to attempt to restrain him. It was during this incident that Gillson tried to spit at Roy.
Back in Ely
The Ely Fire Department responded to the fire call just before 11 a.m. Gillson allegedly set his house on fire in the basement, where a portion of the ceiling was charred and some items burned. The fire was out by 12:30 p.m.
According to sources at Ely City Hall, the residence was damaged sufficiently by the fire that it is currently uninhabitable and will require repair and renovation before the city’s building inspectors can certify that it is safe for occupancy.
Once police investigators were able to enter the home, Houde also observed what appeared to be a bullet hole in a mattress in the same location where Gillson’s girlfriend said he shot her phone. They also found a rifle and a taser in a green box on the bed. Several bullet cartridges were on a shelf near the bed.
Gillson was charged with several felonies, including first degree arson, which has a maximum penalty of a $20,000 fine and 20 years incarceration. He’s also facing a fourth-degree assault of a peace officer charge, which has a maximum penalty of $6,000 and three years incarceration for spitting on Ely Police Officer Bradley Roy. In addition, he faces a charge for reckless discharge of a firearm within a municipality, and with fleeing a peace officer in a motor vehicle, which has a maximum penalty of a $5,000 fine and three years incarceration. An additional domestic assault charge is a misdemeanor.
Gillson was released from St. Louis County Jail on Saturday, Sept. 16, after posting $150,000 bail. The St. Louis County Attorney’s office recommended the high bail amount because Gillson was a danger to both law enforcement and the community, especially his residential neighborhood. The bail request noted that Gillson was a flight risk. It was also the second time in under a month that he was charged with felony offenses involving a domestic dispute and the illegal discharge of firearms. Finally, the attorney’s office’s noted that arson in the first degree is a “presumptive commit,” and that the “state is opposed to pre-trial release.”
Lost custody
Gillson’s actions on Sept. 13 triggered further legal consequences for him. His arrest on Sept. 13 led to a temporary loss of custody and all visitation rights with his minor children.
Gillson and his former spouse divorced in 2019. According to Minnesota court records, she filed for sole custody of their minor children and a curtailment of Gillson’s parenting ability in June 2022.
Gillson and his ex-wife came to an agreement on July 20, 2023, that restricted Gillson’s contact with his children to “supervised visits on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays or Sundays, without any overnights.” The agreement was a temporary order and was to last for 90 days from the time it announced.
Immediately after Gillson’s arrest on Sept. 13, Gillson’s ex-wife filed an emergency petition on Sept. 14 for sole custody and no visitation. The court granted the emergency order, pending a hearing on Friday, Sept. 22.
Previous felony arrest
In addition to the Sept. 13 incident, Gillson was charged with felony discharge of a firearm within a municipality on Aug. 20. Like the Sept. 13 incident, the August gun charge also started with an alleged domestic altercation.
According to court records, a woman living at Gillson’s house reported that Gillson had “held (her) hostage” for two days. When she attempted to leave on the afternoon of Aug. 20, Gillson exited the residence and shot out the tires of the vehicle she was leaving in with a 9 mm pistol. Immediately afterward, he also discharged a shotgun at his garage door “because he was frustrated.”