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Suspected shooter in 2020 drive-by killing in Fargo arrested on murder charge

Jesse James Burnett’s first court appearance was set for 2:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 14, in Cass County District Court.

Jesse James Burnett.JPG
Jesse James Burnett
Special to The Forum
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FARGO — More than two years after a Fargo man was killed in a drive-by shooting, police believe they have cracked the case with two arrests.

Jesse James Burnett, 29, who court documents report was identified by his accomplice, was arrested in Fargo early Friday, Oct. 14, for his alleged role in the Aug. 28, 2020, killing of 41-year-old Santino Manjadit Makur Marial , said Cass County prosecutor Renata Olafson Selzer.

Burnett also faces charges of aggravated assault and reckless endangerment, according to a press release from the Fargo Police Department.

He was arrested during a joint operation between the Red River Valley SWAT Team and the Fargo Police Department on a high-risk warrant in a private residence on the 1900 block of 53rd Ave. S. at 9:51 a.m. Friday, Oct. 14, according to the press release.

Appearing by video feed to the Cass County District Court, Judge Tristan Van de Streek set a $1 million cash bail. Selzer said Burnett, who is being held at Cass County Jail, has at least two prior incidents of threatening people with firearms and also spat in a police officer's face.

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Asking for a $50,000 bail, Elizabeth Brainard, a public defender representing Burnett, said her client has been in alcohol abuse treatment and has not missed recent court dates.

Santino Marial
41-year-old Santino Marial was shot and killed two years ago.
Submitted Photo

In September, Joshua Brooks, 30, was arrested on felony charges of accomplice to murder and accomplice to aggravated assault in the case. Court documents allege Brooks was an accomplice to the shooting, and was the person who gave up Burnett's identity to investigating officers.

Brooks allegedly recruited Burnett and others to retaliate for a previous unreported burglary, court documents stated.

"According to Brooks, Burnett took it upon himself to open shoot at the occupants inside the garage as they drove by," court documents stated.

Court documents alleged Brooks helped a person, who prosecutors now believe was Burnett, after that person allegedly fatally shot Marial around 10:20 p.m. on Aug. 28, 2020, in Fargo.

Marial was with friends near an apartment garage at 1104 44th St. S. when a vehicle drove by, court documents said.

Someone inside the vehicle fired their weapon, killing Marial but missing his friends, court documents said. The vehicle then drove away.

Marial died at a hospital.

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Joshua Brooks
Joshua Brooks
Cass County Jail

Charging documents obtained by The Forum say Marial was not the target of the drive-by shooting. After the shooting, "everyone who contributed to the homicide took steps to conceal or dispose of evidence and avoid apprehension," the charging document stated.

Detectives later identified the people who were the intended targets. They confirmed that the burglary happened, and one of them believe the motive behind the shooting was to target them, court documents reported.

Police were unable to make an arrest in the case until recently. One suspect told investigators Brooks planned the killing and drove the vehicle during the drive-by shooting, a criminal complaint said. Brooks recruited the suspect to "go holla at some people," the complaint alleged.

Brooks drove by Marial and his friends, pointing out one of the three men to the occupants of the vehicle as the person he was looking for, the complaint alleged. Brooks then circled around the apartment complex back to where Marial and his friends were, according to the complaint.

Fargo Police Chief Dave Zibolski commended law enforcement involved in Friday's arrest.

"Today's arrest is a testament to our team's enduring and steadfast resolve, and provides a strong message to victim's families that we continue to work these crimes until solved - they are not forgotten," Zibolski said in a press release.

Fargo Police Capt. George Vinson said the investigation was a "two-year effort that involved numerous tips, leads, and countless hours of investigative work. This is a significant step in securing justice for the Marial family."

C.S. Hagen is an award-winning journalist currently covering the education and activist beats mainly in North Dakota and Minnesota.
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