Male passenger in officer-related shooting near Moorhead says he's of 'sovereign nation,' claims arrest was a kidnapping
MOORHEAD – The driver of a car who was wounded in an officer-involved shooting on Interstate 94 on Monday, March 5, allegedly tried to shoot a Minnesota State Patrol trooper in the head, before being shot herself in the arm, according to the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and Clay County District Court documents filed in the case of a male passenger.
Trooper Mark Peterson stopped to help the woman, identified as Melody Victoria Gray, 30, and her male passenger, Domonique Maurice Crayton, 29, both of Milwaukee, who were in a car that had slid into the median a few miles east of Moorhead, the BCA said.
The time was about 10:10 a.m. Monday, court documents said. The car, which was westbound before the crash, came to a stop facing east against the median barrier, the BCA said.
Peterson activated his squad car camera to capture video and audio, court documents said. He got the driver’s identification (which later proved to be false) and the passenger identified himself as Donald Lamont Echols, court documents said.
The car didn’t have proper plates, so Peterson checked the vehicle identification number (VIN). Peterson then returned to his squad car, where the audio was discontinued but the video continued to run, court documents said.
While Peterson worked to verify the information given by the car’s occupants, the passenger and driver appeared to be trying to drive the car out of the ditch, which was unsuccessful. The trooper then checked the VIN again, while the male passenger sat in the back seat of the car on the driver’s side with the door open, court documents said.
When Peterson learned the car had been reported stolen in Germantown, Wis., he positioned his squad car to prevent the disabled car from driving away. Peterson then asked Crayton to get out of the car, the BCA said.
As Peterson tried to handcuff Crayton, Gray got out of the driver’s seat and, with her right arm extended, pointed a 9mm handgun at the trooper’s head and appeared to pull the trigger, court documents said.
The gun, however, did not fire. The trooper then pulled himself and Crayton away toward the back of the car, and put Crayton to the ground, court documents said.
Meanwhile, the woman tried to manipulate the handgun to chamber a round and raised the gun again toward the trooper. The trooper then fired his weapon and hit her in the right arm, court documents said.
The woman then dropped the gun, ran across I-94 and north into a field, court documents and the BCA said. A snowplow clearing the westbound lanes stopped about 50 yards past the incident scene.
Trooper Peterson handcuffed Crayton and left him on his stomach behind the car. Peterson then ran to the snowplow and recovered a gun, which was under the plow, the BCA said.
Crayton then got on his feet just as an off-duty 911 dispatcher came upon the scene, the BCA said. She ordered Crayton back to the ground and prevented him from getting up until Peterson could return, the BCA said.
Crayton was then put into the back seat of the trooper’s squad car, where he kicked out windows, court documents said.
Meanwhile, Gray had collapsed in the field. Other officers from the State Patrol, Clay County Sheriff’s Office, and Fargo and Dilworth police departments arrived at the scene and took Gray into custody, the BCA said.
Gray was removed from the field and given medical attention until an ambulance arrived, the BCA said. She was taken by ambulance to Essentia Health in Fargo for treatment of a gunshot wound, the bureau said. She remains hospitalized. Charges against her related to the incident are pending with the Clay County Attorney’s Office.
Peterson was not injured, the BCA said. The shooting incident was captured on squad car video, but there was no body camera video, the BCA said.
As Crayton, who had not yet been positively identified, was interviewed later Monday at the Clay County law enforcement center, he identified himself as Donald Moor El and refused to give a date of birth, court documents said.
An attempt was made to identify the man from fingerprints, but was unsuccessful. Officers then learned that Gray had an active warrant for her arrest out of Wisconsin for kidnapping and being a felon in possession of a firearm, court documents said.
Officers contacted Wisconsin authorities, who provided information on a man connected with Gray. A photograph provided by Wisconsin authorities matched the man who had been in the car with Gray, and he was identified as Crayton, court documents said.
Crayton appeared in court Wednesday, March 7, on felony charges of first-degree damage to property and receiving stolen property (a motor vehicle), as well as misdemeanor counts of giving a peace officer false information and obstructing the legal process.
Crayton, who throughout the hearing insisted his name was Donald Moor El, is also being sought by Milwaukee County, Wis., authorities on a warrant for felony charges of kidnapping, human trafficking, second-degree sexual assault and possession of a firearm by a felon.
Bail tied to the Milwaukee County warrant was set by the judge at $100,000 cash or bond. For the Clay County charges, bail was set at $50,000 cash or bond without conditions, or $30,000 with restrictions on travel and maintaining good behavior.
Crayton insisted at Wednesday’s court hearing that Crayton no longer existed.
“I am not that person. That person is dead,” he told the court repeatedly as the judge explained the charges and Crayton’s options in getting a lawyer and fighting extradition to Milwaukee County. “You can’t be dealing with a person who is not here.”
Crayton said at one point that he was good at representing himself in legal proceedings. “How can your society represent me?” Crayton asked.
Crayton told the judge that he had not been allowed a phone call or to contact an attorney.
“I’m of a sovereign nation,” Crayton declared, saying he was of a Moorish Nation of Islam. “How can I conduct business with you?”
Crayton also said his arrest Monday was actually a kidnapping. “Somebody abducted me! Somebody kidnapped me!” he told the court.
Crayton’s next court appearance was set for Friday, March 16.