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North Dakota attorney general to review Mapleton shooting involving 4 Fargo officers

Cass County State's Attorney Birch Burdick said he didn't see a direct conflict in the shooting of Andrew Martinez, but he sent prosecutorial decisions to North Dakota Attorney General Drew Wrigley to avoid the appearance of conflict.

Andrew Martinez.jpeg
Andrew Martinez
Submitted Photo by Martinez Family
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FARGO —The North Dakota attorney general will decide whether officers who killed a man this month in Mapleton, North Dakota, will face charges, a head prosecutor in Cass County said.

Cass County State’s Attorney Birch Burdick confirmed on Monday, Aug. 15, to The Forum that he has asked Attorney General Drew Wrigley to take over prosecutorial decisions in the Andrew Martinez shooting. Four Fargo police officers fatally shot Martinez on Aug. 1 in Mapleton as Martinez exited a house with a gun, according to the Cass County Sheriff’s Office.

Martinez’s death ended an hourslong standoff between himself and law enforcement. Sheriff’s deputies initially responded to a report of shots fired in Mapleton, though no one was reported injured.

Law enforcement also said Martinez suffered a mental health crisis and was possibly a suspect in other undisclosed criminal activity. The Sheriff’s Office requested backup from police in Fargo and West Fargo.

It’s unclear if Martinez fired at police as he came out of the house. The Mapleton man was 35 years old.

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The Fargo Police Department identified the officers as Sergeant Travis Moser, detective Josh Heller, detective Ryan Jasper and investigator Jordan Korte. The four have been on administrative leave since the shooting.

Prosecutors in Burdick’s office are “very familiar” with the officers involved, the state’s attorney said. It made sense to send the case to another office, Burdick said.

“As I have previously stated, I do not believe there is a direct conflict for us handling such a review,” the state’s attorney said. “However, to help ensure there is no appearance of a conflict under these circumstances, the (attorney general) will handle that review.”

The shooting is the second case involving Fargo police that Burdick has sent to Wrigley. Fargo Police Officer Adam O’Brien shot and killed 28-year-old Shane Netterville on July 8 in an apartment parking lot in the city. Court documents alleged Netterville, who lived in Jamestown, drove a stolen van toward police.

Burdick cited similar reasons in the Martinez and Netterville cases for handing over prosecutorial authority to Wrigley.

It’s rare for Cass County to send officer-involved shootings to an outside prosecutor. In the last decade, Burdick's office declined charges in six shootings that involved Fargo police.

Burdick said his office will review a shooting where North Dakota State Trooper Miles Rhonemus injured 28-year-old Maichael Kamal Yousa on July 19 at Interstates 94 and 29 in Fargo. Yousa faces a slew of charges after being involved in several crashes, including one that sent a motorcyclist to the hospital with serious injuries, according to a criminal complaint.

Yousa fired in the area of Rhonemus before the trooper shot Yousa twice in the arm, law enforcement said.

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The Fargo man remains in custody at the Cass County Jail.

“That trooper is relatively new to our area,” Burdick said, noting only a few prosecutors in his office have dealt with him.

O’Brien and Rhonemus also are on administrative leave, which is policy for the Fargo Police Department and the North Dakota Highway Patrol in officer-involved shootings. The state Bureau of Criminal Investigation, which is overseen by Wrigley, is investigating all three shootings.

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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