CASSELTON, N.D. — A Fargo man who was fatally shot early Monday morning, Oct. 18, in a Casselton residence broke into the home where he had threatened to kill his girlfriend a week earlier, according to court documents and law enforcement.
Cass County Sheriff Jesse Jahner identified 58-year-old Randell Ray Burton as the man who was killed Monday at 15568 37th St. SE. Edwin Charles Kester Jr., 54, called 911 to report that he shot Burton at the apartment, Jahner said during a Tuesday news conference.
The address of the shooting matches Club 94, a bar and grill just north of Interstate 94. Though the apartment was connected to the bar, Club 94 bar was not involved in the shooting, Jahner said.
Burton broke into the home moments before Kester shot him with a revolver, Jahner said. The apartment belonged to a woman who shared an “on again, off again” relationship with Burton, according to court documents that detailed domestic violence and terrorizing charges against Burton.
The charges stemmed from a Thursday call for an 11:25 p.m. disturbance to the same residence. The woman, whom The Forum has chosen not to identify, told investigators she and Burton were arguing over her owing him $200 for a water pump when he grabbed and pinned her against a wall, according to a criminal complaint.
Burton then forced her through a back door into the parking lot, where he threw her to the ground and threatened to kill her, the complaint alleged. He also threatened to shoot a man who tried to intervene, the complaint said.
The woman, who declined medical attention, also told investigators she and Burton were at a bar in West Fargo when he allegedly suggested he knew people who can kill her, according to the court document. It doesn't appear he faced charges for that incident, and it's unclear when it happened.
Burton had a criminal history involving violence. In May 2020, he was arrested at The Zone Bar in West Fargo after being confronted for trying to kiss a woman who rejected his advances, according to a criminal complaint. After being asked to leave, a fight broke out, court documents said.
When police arrived, bar patrons had subdued Burton, the complaint said. He resisted arrest until an officer threatened to use a stun gun on him, the complaint said.
While in a police car, Burton kicked the window and bars, police said. He also tried to spit on an officer and later threatened to sexually assault the officer's family while being transported to a hospital so medical staff could evaluate his intoxication level, minor scrapes and several abrasions, the complaint said.
Burton also said he would be "hunting the families" of police involved in his arrest before threatening to kill the officers, the complaint said.
He pleaded guilty to terrorizing, disorderly conduct and simple assault in February and was later sentenced to a year of probation.
He pleaded not guilty to the domestic violence charge, a misdemeanor, in the Thursday case when he appeared Friday in Cass County District Court. He did not enter a plea to the felony charge of terrorizing. Bond was set at $10,000, but he was released from jail after posting 10% in cash, Cass County State’s Attorney Birch Burdick said.
Burton signed a restraining order that demanded he not have contact with the woman.
Still, he broke through two doors before 2 a.m. Monday to the woman’s apartment and headed straight toward her room, Jahner said. That's when Kester shot Burton, Jahner said.
The woman had changed the locks and spent time with friends, noting she feared Burton would come after her, according to the sheriff. Kester was at the apartment because the woman asked him to be there so she could get some sleep, Jahner said.
"When this incident occurred, the female stated that she had friends over to the bar so that she would not be alone," Jahner said.
Burton died after being taken to a hospital.
Other than a folding knife, no weapons were found on Burton's person, investigators said. Kester and the woman were not injured, the sheriff said.
It’s unclear how many times Kester fired the handgun, a coroner said. Kester was detained for about 10 hours while investigators processed the scene, the sheriff said. He was released after investigators determined he was not a danger to the public, Jahner said.
There wasn't enough evidence or probable cause to arrest Kester for a crime, the sheriff said. While it seems Kester was protecting the woman, Burdick said he isn’t ruling out charges.
Jahner couldn’t say when the investigation would be completed, but investigators are expected to forward the case to prosecutors for review.
If Kester is not charged, it would be the second time in as many years that a person fatally shot another without facing prosecution in Casselton. William Scott Dittmer shot 50-year-old Duane Turchin in self-defense in May 2020 at the Harness Mobile Home Court, 51 3rd Ave. N. Turchin drove into Dittmer's driveway while the latter sat in his vehicle, law enforcement said.
Turchin approached Dittmer before the latter exited the vehicle with a gun in his hand, deputies said. Then Turchin threw his drink at Dittmer and grabbed Dittmer by the throat, authorities said. Feeling his life was threatened, Dittmer shot Turchin.
Turchin left the scene but was found near his home. He then died at a hospital.
The Sheriff's Office was unaware prior to the Monday incident that the woman feared Burton would come after her, Jahner said. If deputies were alerted, they would have patrolled the area more frequently, as well as taken other measures to protect the woman, he said.
Courts issue numerous restraining orders, Jahner and Burdick said. It is a tool to help protect victims, but not everyone follows them, the sheriff acknowledged.
"We all recognize that an order prohibiting contact is a piece of paper," Burdick said. "It's not a fence."
Bond was set in accordance to prosecutors' recommendations, Burdick added. Judicial officials make decisions based on the circumstances and information they have at the time, he said, adding he felt Burton's bond was appropriate at the time of his court appearance.
"This is something that almost never happens, but it doesn't mean it cannot happen," he said.
Janher said he understands people may need to defend themselves if there is not enough time to call law enforcement, and he encouraged those who need assistance to call deputies.
Anyone who is in an abusive relationship should seek help and try to get out of that relationship, he said. If they are in danger, he encouraged domestic violence victims to call law enforcement for assistance.
"We don't want anyone to get hurt," Jahner said.
The National Domestic Violence Hotline is 800-799-7233. Those who need assistance can also text START to 88788.