Defense claims man accused of Dilworth shooting wasn't at scene

Prosecutors say Dennis Hackley shot Christopher Lussier without provocation in November, but the defense claims Hackley wasn't at the building that day.

Dennis Hackley
Dennis Hackley, 37

MOORHEAD — The defense for a Moorhead man accused of shooting another in November at a Dilworth, Minn., apartment is trying to convince a jury that someone else fired the gun.

Testimony for Dennis Scott Hackley’s trial started Tuesday afternoon, April 27, with 38-year-old Christopher Lussier saying Hackley shot him in the leg the morning of Nov. 12 at 202 Fifth St. NW in Dilworth. Hackley, 38, has been charged with three second-degree felony counts of assault and possessing a firearm as a felon.

Clay County prosecutor Jacob Fauchald described in opening statements how Lussier was going upstairs in his Dilworth apartment building to ask friends for a ride to get groceries. Lussier said he was making breakfast that morning but left to get eggs at a nearby Walmart.

Without warning, Hackley allegedly shot Lussier through his shin on the third floor of the apartment building before firing several more shots, Fauchald said. Before fleeing, Hackley said, “Take that, Chris,” according to Lussier’s testimony.

“Mr. Lussier is in shock,” Fauchald said. “He has done nothing wrong to provoke Mr. Hackley.”


Lussier’s fiancee, Angela Decoteau, 31, who also lived at the apartment with her children, told jurors she saw Hackley running down the stairs and that he shot at her.

Hackley was arrested almost a month after the shooting.

Defense attorney Brian Toay tried to poke holes in Lussier’s and Decoteau’s stories by suggesting their statements to police differed from each other's, but their testimony matched each other's stories almost exactly. Toay also alleged the couple had made up the story about Hackley shooting Lussier.

No one else saw the shooting, Toay told jurors in opening statements. He noted no gun was found, though police collected several bullets they suspect were fired from a handgun.

Toay argued someone else shot Lussier, and Hackley was not in the building that morning. Hackley had an affair with Decoteau while she was dating Lussier, Toay added.

“They do not like Mr. Hackley,” Toay said. “The evidence is not true simply because a witness said it is.”

Toay asked Lussier whether he was a part of an altercation the previous night that reportedly involved another apartment resident, and if Lussier was going upstairs to confront that person.

Lussier denied those accusations and maintained Hackley was the shooter.


The defense attorney also questioned the couple’s credibility by citing their criminal history. Toay brought up Lussier's convictions for violating a domestic abuse no contact order in September and a 2019 disorderly conduct charge. He also noted that Decoteau has been sentenced on forgery, providing a false name and false report charges.

Hackley’s trial is expected to continue into Friday. Prosecutors will continue Wednesday with testimony from law enforcement.

April Baumgarten joined The Forum in February 2019 as an investigative reporter. She grew up on a ranch 10 miles southeast of Belfield, N.D., where her family raises Hereford cattle. She double majored in communications and history/political science at the University of Jamestown, N.D.
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