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18-year-old sentenced for robbery that led to stray bullet hitting West Fargo boy in bed

Germond Edward Johnson Jr. had a history of robbery and gun-related crimes before robbing a marijuana dealer in West Fargo, a prosecutor said.

JOHNSONG.JPG
Germond Edward Johnson Jr.
Cass County Jail photo
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FARGO — An 18-year-old was sentenced to almost 12 years in federal prison for his role in a robbery that led to a stray bullet hitting a 6-year-old boy in the head while he was in bed in his West Fargo home.

Germond Edward Johnson Jr. showed little emotion as the 6-year-old boy's parents testified Wednesday, July 6, in Fargo’s federal courthouse.

“It’s a journey we didn’t ask for and hope it is one no one has to go through,” said the boy’s father, Mark Frey.

Johnson previously pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting robbery and conspiracy to interfere with commerce by threats or violence. A third charge, aiding and abetting use of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence, was dropped as part of a plea deal.

Court documents filed in North Dakota’s U.S. District Court said Johnson and CJ Jesse James Carruthers, 20, planned to rob an unidentified 17-year-old. Carruthers and Johnson knew the 17-year-old sold marijuana, court documents alleged.

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A federal indictment did not detail what happened before the shooting on March 22, 2021, in a West Fargo neighborhood near 36th Avenue West and Parkway Drive. Federal Judge Peter Welte noted that a presentence investigation report described Johnson’s version of the events.

Johnson claimed he and Carruthers got into the car to smoke marijuana with the 17-year-old before an argument broke out. Johnson said Carruthers and the 17-year-old drew their guns, but Johnson asserted he didn’t know who shot first.

Court documents filed in Cass County District Court alleged Johnson and Carruthers got out of the vehicle before Carruthers fired his gun. The 17-year-old driver fired back, and that bullet went through a nearby house, hitting the 6-year-old in the head, court documents said.

The boy, who was in his bed participating remotely in a Bible study, survived the shooting but had to go through multiple surgeries and procedures, his parents said. The shooting has left the boy with a brain injury and a scar on his head, his parents said.

Frey said his 6-year-old son has a passion for football. While the boy can play a modified version of the sport, he can never play contact sports, the family said.

“The opportunity to pursue his biggest passion has been taken away,” the father said.

One of the bullets went into the room of boy’s 14-year-old sister, but it hit a bed leg and not her, the family said. The girl wrote a poem describing the shooting, including the sound of six shots being fired and her begging God to save her brother, the parents said.

Johnson apologized to the family, saying he didn’t mean for this to happen to the boy. He asked for leniency.

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“I’m not a criminal,” Johnson said. “I made a bad decision.”

His attorney, Tatum O’Brien, asked for 78 months behind bars, lower than the guidelines of 135 to 168 months. Johnson feels terrible about the boy’s injuries, O’Brien said. He also grew up in Chicago with a dad who was part of a gang, she said.

“He grew up with a real tough situation,” O’Brien said.

Prosecutor Richard Lee requested 135 months in prison for Johnson, saying the shooting is an escalation of Johnson’s history that involves robbery and gun-related crimes.

The boy’s parents said they forgive those involved in the shooting. Welte acknowledged the forgiveness but noted that people have to be held accountable for their actions. That’s why he sentenced Johnson to 142 months in prison, Welte said.

“This case is tragic, but it could have been far more tragic,” the judge said.

Welte ruled that Johnson had not accepted responsibility for his actions, which would have allowed for a lighter sentence. The presentencing investigation found Johnson tried to minimize the shooting by saying he didn’t plan to rob the 17-year-old.

Welte also ruled that Johnson should not be considered a minor participant in the robbery, despite not shooting a weapon or having a gun on him.

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Carruthers was sentenced in February to 10 years in prison. Johnson and Carruthers will each have to pay more than $62,000 in restitution.

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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