ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Human Rights Commission will seek 'unbiased' investigations into officer-involved shootings

The Fargo Human Rights Commission approved a motion on Thursday, Sept. 15, brought forth by area activist Wess Philome, asking them to petition the Fargo City Commission for an “independent, unbiased firm” to investigate the fatal shooting deaths of Shane Netterville, from Jamestown, and Andrew Martinez, from Mapleton.

Wess Philome speaking before the Fargo Human Rights Commission on Thursday, Sept. 15, 2022.jpg
Wess Philome speaks before the Fargo Human Rights Commission on Sept. 15, 2022.
C.S. Hagen/The Forum
We are part of The Trust Project.

FARGO — The Fargo Human Rights Commission took an unusual step Thursday, Sept. 15, after a proposal was made by an audience member to begin a new investigation into the fatal shooting deaths of two North Dakotans.

Wess Philome, a longtime area activist, approached the commission during its regularly scheduled meeting, asking them to consider a motion to petition the Fargo City Commission for an “independent, unbiased firm” to investigate the fatal shooting deaths of Shane Netterville , from Jamestown, and Andrew Martinez , from Mapleton.

Philome’s request, which he originally tried to file as an agenda item with the commission, became a motion, which the commission passed unanimously.

“The awareness of this board needs to be more, and you need to challenge the city. When you speak up, you speak up for us. You guys are now the human rights board, and it’s your job to protect our human rights,” Philome said to the commission.

Much work is required before the proposal can be made to Fargo city commissioners, however, and a subcommittee will begin looking into issues such as choosing a firm and costs involved.

ADVERTISEMENT

“The subcommittee will talk about how we will work with the oversight committee and how we can push forward what the public wants in relation to Shane Netterville’s death and how to handle future issues,” said Cody Severson, commission chairman.

Hamida Dakane, commission member, said Philome’s request was time sensitive, and that the commission needed to act quickly.

“I agree with you that we haven’t done much. We want to do better by the people who we represent,” Dakane said.

“The process (of the internal investigation by the Fargo Police) left me wanting more, and presented more questions than answers,” said commission member Barry Nelson, who turned Philome's request into a motion.

The Fargo Human Rights Commission in session on Thursday, Sept. 15, 2022.jpg
The Fargo Human Rights Commission in session on Thursday, Sept. 15, 2022.
C.S. Hagen/The Forum

Four members of the Fargo Human Rights Commission will form the subcommittee and will meet and report back to the commission for discussion and then forward the proposal to the Fargo City Commission for a decision, Severson said.

The commission also plans to work with the Police Advisory & Oversight Board to look for ways of improving current protocols after police-involved shootings and violence occur.

“I think that it would be important how we can do this better as a city, because this is never going to get better if we don’t do it better,” said commission member Sarah Boonstoppel, adding that the process of how situations involving police violence are dealt with should be reviewed.

Netterville, a 28-year-old Native American man, was fatally shot by Fargo Police Officer Adam O'Brien on July 8.

ADVERTISEMENT

The Fargo Police Department said O'Brien, who's white, didn't violate any use of force policies, and presented its findings from an internal review of the fatal shooting to the Police Advisory & Oversight Board on Thursday, Sept. 8.

Police findings are also in line with Attorney General Drew Wrigley's ruling in August, which said O’Brien had acted lawfully when he shot Netterville.

The 35-year-old Martinez, who's race is unknown at this time, was going through a mental health crisis when he was shot and killed by Fargo Police Officers , who responded as backup after the Cass County Sheriff’s Office asked for assistance on Aug 1, according to Cass County Sheriff Jesse Jahner.

The four Fargo police officers, who were all white, identified as Sergeant Travis Moser, detectives Josh Heller and Ryan Jasper and investigator Jordan Korte, shot and killed Martinez, Jahner said.

On July 19, North Dakota Highway Patrol Trooper Miles Rhonemus, a white man, shot 28-year-old Maichael Yousa , of Fargo, twice during an exchange of gunfire after two vehicle crashes and a report of the man shooting several rounds at an apartment, according to authorities. Yousa, a Black man, was not seriously injured by the gunfire.

C.S. Hagen is an award-winning journalist currently covering the education and activist beats mainly in North Dakota and Minnesota.
What to read next
A select rundown of stories found on InForum.
Any vehicles parked in marked areas after 3 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 3, will be towed at the owner’s expense.
Exclusive
An ongoing civil court battle over the property's fate is further complicated by criminal trespassing charges that Danial Curtis now faces for remaining in the house.
Follow this Fargo-Moorhead news and weather podcast on Apple, Spotify, and Google Podcasts.