Police: Fargo officer shot in standoff not expected to survive, gunman killed
FARGO – A Fargo officer shot Wednesday night during a standoff in north Fargo is not expected to survive, and the man suspected of shooting him is dead, Police Chief David Todd said.
Todd said at a 2 a.m. Thursday news conference at police headquarters that Officer Jason Moszer, 33, is a six-year veteran with the police department. He was shot by a suspect in a standoff with police at a north Fargo residence, just blocks from the police department.
“Tonight the Fargo Police Department is mourning the loss of our brother officer,” Todd said.
Moszer would be only the second Fargo police officer fatally shot in the line of duty in the city’s history, the only other death having been in 1882.
In a press conference at 7:30 a.m., Todd confirmed that the suspected shooter has died, either from gunfire from police or by suicide. Police haven't identified the suspect publicly but believe they know who he is.
Todd also said he believes the gunman was purposely shooting at police while barricaded inside a north Fargo home, noting a police cruiser nearby was also shot multiple times.
"I don't think there was anything random about it," he said.
Because of the Fargo Police Department's involvement, the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation and the Cass County Sheriff's Office will take over the investigation of the shooting, Todd said.
"Right now my job as the chief is to take care of our officer's family and to take care of my officers," he said.
Todd said Moszer has a wound that is not survivable. Moszer is married with two children, he said.
"His family is with him, they're saying goodbye to him," Todd said.
The area near the standoff in the 300 block of Ninth Avenue North is still considered the scene of an investigation and travel there will be limited Thursday, both on foot and by vehicle, Todd said.
Because of the investigation, Horace Mann Elementary School was closed Thursday morning, with students first reporting to Roosevelt Elementary School. Shortly after 9:30 a.m., school officials said access to Horace Mann was reopened and students would be taken there.
The standoff lasted around eight hours. Around 7:30 a.m., Todd said it had been resolved and that the suspected shooter had died.
Deputy Chief Joe Anderson, a Fargo police spokesman, said at 4 a.m. he did not know if Moszer had died, but said “he won’t pull through.”
What initially began with a report of a domestic disturbance at 308 9th Ave. N. about 7 p.m. escalated quickly.
The armed man holed up in the north Fargo home opened fire on officers and continued to unleash bursts of gunfire in a residential neighborhood as authorities tried to negotiate with him, police said.
No additional gunfire was heard from the home since an initial media briefing around 10:40 p.m. Wednesday, Anderson said. There had been no other officers injured.
The SWAT team used two robots, gas and smoke to try to flush the suspect from the home, Anderson said, though the robots were having battery and other malfunctions. Temperatures hovered in the single digits above zero early Thursday.
At a 5:30 a.m. news conference, Todd said authorities did have negotiations with the suspect and that a SWAT operator "did engage him with gunfire. It is possible the suspect was hit with gunfire. We do not know what his status is."
Earlier in the night, Moszer was hit by the suspect’s gunfire and was seen by a neighboring resident lying in an alley nearby a police cruiser, Todd said.
At the 7:30 a.m. news conference, Todd said Moszer was one of the officers who had set up a perimeter around the house and that he was shot before the SWAT team arrived.
Officers moved in with an armored BearCat vehicle and took Moszer to the hospital, said Todd, who went with Moszer’s wife to the hospital where they were informed he was mortally wounded.
“Tonight we’re losing a brother, one of our fellow officers,” Todd said, choking back tears.
Moszer graduated in 2001 from Fargo South High School and from North Dakota State University in 2009.
In 2012, Moszer and fellow officer Matthew Sliders were awarded the department’s Silver Star Medal for pulling two children from an apartment fire.
"He was a guy who came to work with a smile on his face every day," Todd said. "He loved working out on the street with his fellow officers, they loved working with him. He was just an all-around great guy. It's a terrible loss."
Lt. Joel Vettel said a funeral for Moszer is expected to take place late next week.
Todd said the suspect is believed to have threatened his wife in the home and possibly shot at her. The couple’s son made the initial call to police, Todd said. Family members were able to escape the gunfire unharmed, Anderson said.
When police arrived and established a perimeter around the home, the man opened fire on officers, said Anderson.
Shots continued to be heard as police, including SWAT team members, tried to resolve the situation. It was uncertain what sort of guns and ammo the man had access to.
"He has possibly multiple long guns, but that's not confirmed at this point, but we do know that he is obviously shooting rounds out of his house," Anderson said.
About 9 p.m. Wednesday, police sent out an emergency alert to north Fargo residents warning them to stay in their homes and go into their basements. Some homes in the area were being evacuated about 9:30 p.m.
"If the individual is firing a long rifle, those rifle rounds can go through houses, go through wood," Anderson said.
Around 12:30 a.m. Thursday, SWAT team officers were going door-to-door in the neighborhood, asking residents if they were OK and telling them to remain in the lower level of their residences. That sweep appeared be completed around 1:45 a.m., scanner traffic indicated.
The home where the standoff was taking place was just north of Sanford Medical Center, which was on lockdown overnight, though patients and families could still enter on the south side escorted by security. The lockdown was lifted shortly after 9 a.m., a spokeswoman said. Sanford's same day surgery clinic will be closed Thursday, and all impacted patients and staff have been notified.
A short distance to the west of the home, near First Lutheran Church, at least a dozen police vehicles were staged starting around 9:30 p.m., including Fargo and West Fargo police, North Dakota Highway Patrol, the Cass County Sheriff's Office and the Red River Regional SWAT team command truck.
Last police officer shooting death in 1882
There's been only one Fargo officer to be shot and killed in the line of duty. Frederick D. Alderman was slain July 5, 1882, after just two months on the job.
According to the Officer Down Memorial Page, Alderman, 25, was shot as he attempted to follow a suspect who had used stolen property to pay a fine. With no issued lantern, Alderman mistook a neighboring home for the suspect's residence in the dark. After receiving no response to a knock on the door, Alderman forced the door open and the resident opened fire on him, killing him at the scene, the website report said.
A woman was charged with murder but a jury ruled against the charge after learning Alderman did not identify himself as a police officer at the door.
Moszer, fellow officer honored in 2012
In 2012, Moszer and officer Matthew Sliders were awarded the department’s Silver Star Medal for pulling two children from an apartment fire.
Responding to a disturbance call in November 2011, the officers found two children trapped and screaming inside a burning apartment bedroom.
Risking their own lives, the two officers entered the room and saved the children from the fire, and then helped extinguish the blaze in the apartment.
At the ceremony, then-Police Chief Keith Ternes said all officers recognized had gone above and beyond what is normally required of them.
"Some of the events these officers were summoned to - we don't teach people to run into a burning building, we don't teach people to save lives," Ternes said. "They did that because of who they are."
Forum Online Editor Rob Beer contributed to this report.