Man accused of shooting at officers outside Fargo Radisson pleads not guilty
FARGO — A Fargo man has entered not guilty pleas to charges that accuse him of shooting at officers near a downtown hotel, but he admitted to lesser counts while fighting ones that could send him to prison for life.
Henry Isalee Aiken, 55, pleaded not guilty on Tuesday, Nov. 24, in Cass County District Court to felony counts of attempted murder, aggravated assault, terrorizing, reckless endangerment and unlawful possession of a firearm in connection to an early Nov. 15 shooting outside the Radisson Hotel at 201 Fifth St. He appeared to do so reluctantly, repeating past proclamations that he is guilty to the three latter charges.
He said he is not guilty of attempted murder and aggravated assault, the most serious charges that allege he shot at police before he shot through a first-floor hotel window. Court documents said he jumped through the window into the lobby, where he surrendered to police.
Aiken has denied shooting at officers. He claims police reports contradict each other and dispatch log times don’t line up with times from Prairie Public Radio surveillance video that recorded the shooting.
- Accused downtown Fargo shooter worked on Block 9 project
- Fargo officer injured in Radisson shooting incident is released from the hospital
“I didn’t do this, sir, and I have proof,” he said Tuesday in court.
Typically, Aiken would face up to 20 years in prison for the attempted murder charge if convicted. Prosecutors are seeking up to life behind bars for that count. Prosecutors labeled Aiken a habitual offender, citing history that includes a 2015 shooting in Williston.
Judge John Irby discouraged Aiken from entering guilty pleas to the lesser charges until a future date.
During an hour-long hearing to determine if there is enough probable cause to continue with proceedings, Fargo Police Detective Joshua Loos described how Officer Joseph Vegel took cover behind a corner north of Aiken before being shot at. Incident reports detail a green laser, allegedly from Aiken’s revolver, going across Vegel’s body multiple times. Vegel then heard bullets whizzing by his head, Loos said.
The detective said Vegel never felt so scared in his life.
Aiken, who is representing himself, attempted to poke holes in Loos’ testimony and police report. When asked about dispatch logs, Loos said the times reflect when a dispatcher recorded information, not necessarily the actual time events happened.
Aiken also questioned why Stg. Matt Ysteboe’s report didn’t mention the laser, despite him being next to Vegel. Loos noted that Ysteboe was injured when his rifle accidentally discharged during the event.
“It certainly isn’t definitive that he didn’t see the laser,” Loos said, adding Ysteboe’s lack of detail is not indicative of what he saw.
Finally, Aiken disputed the laser was pointing in the direction of officers. He suggested it would be impossible for the laser to go across a person multiple times if they were standing behind a wall.
Loos said video shows the laser being pointed toward officers, though Aiken disputed that as well.
Irby found there was enough probable cause to proceed with the charges.