FARGO — A Fargo man is facing assault charges after allegedly using a racial slur against a group of children before choking an 11-year-old neighbor.
Larry Wayne Baldner, 73, appeared Thursday, Sept. 23, in Cass County District Court on charges of aggravated assault involving a victim under the age of 12, preventing arrest and simple assault. The first charge, a Class B felony, carries a maximum punishment of 10 years in prison and a requirement to register as an offender against children.
The charges stem from a Tuesday report of a man assaulting and choking an 11-year-old girl in the 2700 block of 33rd ½ Avenue South, near Essentia Health's Fargo medical center.
According to court documents:
Five children, including the 11-year-old, were playing basketball in their driveway. The girl lives in a duplex connected to Baldner's, and they share a driveway.
Baldner was trying to get into his driveway but told police the children were in his way. He told the children to get off his property and called them by an anti-Black slur, the 11-year-old said. He also said, "Your skin is the color of s---," the girl and her sister told police.
When the girl told Baldner to get out of her "bubble," he slapped her across the face, the girl told police. The girl went into the garage to get her sister.
The two went out to confront Baldner in the driveway. That's when he allegedly grabbed the 11-year-old by the hair and neck. It was enough to lift her off the ground for 5 to 6 seconds.
The other girl hit Baldner in the face after hearing her sister cough. The 11-year-old broke free, but a hair extension was ripped from her head.
Baldner also allegedly hit the other girl in the face after letting go of the 11-year-old.
Another neighbor also said he saw Baldner lifting the 11-year-old by her neck and hair, according to court documents.
Police said in an incident report that Baldner was confrontational, uncooperative and resisted arrest. He claimed the children were mouthing off to him, claimed the girl came back with another girl and beat him up, the report said.
Baldner had "road rash" on his elbows and knees caused by falling to the ground.
He has been released on bail, which was set at $3,000. He only had to pay 10% if he used cash, according to court documents.
Baldner also was ordered not to have any contact with the girls.
No attorney was listed to represent Baldner as of Thursday afternoon. WDAY News knocked on Baldner's door for comment, but he declined.
North Dakota doesn't have a hate crime law on the books, but Fargo enacted a hate crime ordinance in June. A person who commits one of three crimes because of the victim's race, color, religion, gender, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin or ancestry is guilty of a Class B misdemeanor, which carries a maximum punishment of 30 days in jail or a $1,500 fine.
The Cass County State's Attorney Office can only prosecute crimes laid out in North Dakota Century Code, Cass County prosecutor Joshua Traiser said. The city of Fargo would have to pursue the hate crime charge if it wanted to, he added.
Baldner had not been charged with the ordinance violation as of Thursday.
Assistant City Attorney William Wischer, who typically prosecutes cases, was not available for comment on Thursday.
Out of respect for the girls' privacy, Traiser declined to say whether the children were Black. Baldner is white.