FARGO — One of two men accused of killing a Fargo food truck operator in June entered "not guilty" pleas on Wednesday, Aug. 14, to charges of murder and conspiracy to commit murder.

Charles Edward Harris III, of Fargo, is accused in Cass County District Court, along with a co-defendant, Kareem Lee Byrd Jr., also of Fargo, in the death of Jason "Jay" Allen Halvorson.

Halvorson, 38, was mortally wounded about 1 a.m. on June 7, near his food truck, Texas Q BBQ and Catering, which at the time was parked in the parking lot of the former Sahr's Sudden Service station at 601 Fourth St. N., in Fargo.

Jason "Jay" Allen Halvorson
Jason "Jay" Allen Halvorson

Harris' appearance in court Wednesday included a preliminary hearing, during which a Fargo police detective testified about details of the investigation as it unfolded following the shooting.

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According to Det. Josh Loos:

A man who was walking his dog on the sidewalk next to the former service station the morning of the shooting told police he encountered two men who exchanged a few words with him as they walked by him.

The witness said he then saw the two men walk toward where the food truck was parked, but at that point lost sight of the two men because his view was blocked by a vehicle.

The witness related to police how he heard gunfire erupt moments later, though he could not see what was happening.

Loos said when authorities arrived, they found Halvorson to be the apparent victim of a shooting and seven 9 mm shell casings.

He said an autopsy determined that Halvorson died after receiving five gunshot wounds and that two different caliber of weapons were used.

According to Loos, after the shooting, a Clay County sheriff's deputy heard about the incident over police radio and took a position near a bridge over the Red River in case someone attempted to flee into Minnesota.

Loos said the deputy spotted a minivan carrying a passenger whose appearance matched a description of a suspect, and the deputy radioed for back up from a North Dakota law enforcement agency.

A North Dakota Highway Patrol unit stopped the minivan, which was driven by a woman and carried Harris and Byrd among its passengers, said Loos, who added that three young children were also in the vehicle.

Monty Mertz shows aerial images of the murder scene to Fargo Police Det. Josh Loos Wednesday, Aug. 14, in district court.
Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor
Monty Mertz shows aerial images of the murder scene to Fargo Police Det. Josh Loos Wednesday, Aug. 14, in district court. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

A search of the vehicle yielded a backpack carrying a 9 mm semiautomatic handgun and a .22-caliber revolver, according to Loos, who said the semiautomatic had a round in the chamber ready to fire and the revolver contained six shells, three of which had been fired.

Under questioning, Harris at first denied any knowledge of the shooting, but after being informed of what authorities knew about the incident he told police the guns found in the backpack belonged to him, and he said Byrd had told him he had used the guns to shoot someone, Loos testified.

Loos said when Byrd was questioned he told police he and Harris had a verbal confrontation with Halvorson near the food truck and afterward they went to Harris' apartment to get the two guns before returning to the food truck and shooting Halvorson.

Byrd told police both he and Harris shot at Halvorson, Byrd using the .22-caliber handgun and Harris using the 9 mm semiautomatic, according to Loos.

Judge Wade Webb ruled that based on the record, including Loos' testimony, there was sufficient probable cause to support the charges against Harris; Webb ordered that Harris stay in jail in lieu of bail, which remained at $2 million, cash only.

Byrd also remained in the Cass County Jail Wednesday.

At the time they were charged in June, Byrd was 19 and Harris was 30.

The charges against Harris and Byrd are Class AA felonies, which carry a maximum penalty of life in prison without parole.