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Man found guilty of murder in shootout deaths of mother and Grand Forks police officer

Salamah Pendleton shot and killed his mother and a Grand Forks police officer in May 2020. On Wednesday, July 14, he was found guilty on seven of nine charges.

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Salamah Pendleton, testifies Monday, July 12, 2021, at the Grand Forks County Courthouse where he is on trial in the shooting death of Grand Forks police officer Cody Holte, his mother, Lola Moore and wounding Grand Forks County Sheriff's deputy Ron Nord. Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

GRAND FORKS — Salamah Pendleton on Wednesday, July 14, was found guilty on two charges of murder in the deaths of his mother and Grand Forks Police Officer Cody Holte.

The incident occurred in May 2020, and also resulted in seven other charges against Pendleton. Along with the two guilty verdicts on the murder charges, he was found guilty on five other counts, including:

  • Attempted murder of Grand Forks County Sheriff's Office Sgt. Kelly McLean.
  • Attempted murder of Sheriff's Office Cpl. Ron Nord.
  • A charge of terrorizing.
  • A charge of reckless endangerment.
  • And a charge of possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance.

He was found not guilty of attempted murder of Grand Forks Police Cpl. Pat Torok and a charge of criminal mischief.
Man found guilty of murder in shootout deaths of mother and Grand Forks police officer

The jury gave its verdict shortly after 3:30 p.m. Wednesday after deliberating approximately 10 hours, beginning Tuesday.

A sentencing hearing will be set at a later date.

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During the nearly three-week trial , Pendleton, 42, admitted that he opened fire on police with an AK-74 when two Grand Forks County Sheriff's Office deputies attempted to evict him from his apartment in May 2020. However, the jury was left to contend with Pendleton's version of events versus what the prosecution team claimed happened.

Pendleton claims he became terrified after he thought he heard officers fired the first shots, and after seeing Lola Moore, his mother, dead on the ground, he became afraid police would kill him next.

But the state's prosecution team argued that Pendleton's recollection of events was at odds with body camera footage and the physical evidence. Ballistics analysis showed Moore was killed when one of Pendleton's bullets traveled through his bedroom wall and into the hallway where she was standing, which Pendleton conceded to during questioning. However, he maintained he hadn't known his mother was in harm's way, and he hadn't intended to hurt her.

Pendleton also testified he hadn't intended to kill Holte, and had been attempting to aim for officers' legs. He said his vision was impaired during the shooting because he did not have his glasses on, although the prosecution called that fact into question during closing arguments as well, suggesting his glasses appear to be on the ground near his feet after officers incapacitated him.

The jury was asked to consider four possible charges for the deaths of Holte and Moore: if they found him not guilty of murder with extreme indifference to the value of human life, they should then consider, in order, murder with extreme emotional disturbance, manslaughter by reckless conduct, or negligent homicide.

Pendleton's attorney argued to the jury that at best, the state's evidence supported a manslaughter conviction for Moore's death and a murder with extreme emotional disturbance conviction for Holte.

By finding Pendleton guilty of murder with extreme indifference to the value of human life, the most serious of the possible charges, the jury decided he acted willfully, recklessly, and without regard for anyone his actions might have hurt.

Hannah Shirley covers crime, courts and criminal justice for the Grand Forks Herald. She is a 2018 graduate of the University of Idaho and has lived and worked in Grand Forks since 2019. Prior to moving to North Dakota, she worked as a reporter for the Berkshire Record in Great Barrington, Mass., a receptionist for the Moscow-Pullman Daily News in Moscow, Idaho, and a barista in a New York City coffee shop. She can be reached by phone at (701) 780-1267 or by email at hshirley@gfherald.com.
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