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Man sentenced to 10 years after stray bullet badly injures West Fargo boy

CJ Carruthers pleaded guilty to two federal charges stemming from the March 22, 2021, shootout.

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CJ Jesse James Carruthers
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FARGO — One of three men involved in a shootout that seriously injured a 6-year-old boy in his West Fargo home has been sentenced to 10 years in federal prison.

CJ Jesse James Carruthers, 20, pleaded guilty to two charges stemming from the March 22, 2021, shootout: interference with commerce by threats and violence, and conspiracy to commit a robbery.

U.S. District Judge Peter Welte sentenced Carruthers on Thursday, Feb. 24, in Fargo's federal courthouse.

Along with prison time, Carruthers will face three years of supervised release and must pay $62,575.36 in restitution. The restitution will be paid to the shooting victim's family and their insurance company to cover medical expenses and damage to the family's home.

While robbing an alleged drug dealer in West Fargo with Germond Edward Johnson Jr., Carruthers fired his gun, striking the robbery victim’s vehicle, according to prosecutors.

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The robbery victim returned fire, and a stray bullet from the robbery victim's gun went into a nearby home, hitting the 6-year-old boy while he was in his bed. The boy survived extensive injuries as a result of the gunshot wound.

Carruthers "robbed a drug dealer and that turned into a Wild West shootout in a neighborhood," federal prosecutor Richard Lee said during Thursday's sentencing hearing.

The prosecution and defense agreed the alleged robbery victim, a juvenile identified in court records only as E.G., fled to Texas and is not likely to face charges related to the shootout.

Carruthers' attorney Christopher Bellmore said his client has shown remorse for the role he played in the 2021 incident.

Bellmore argued that at just 20 years old, sentencing the Fargo man to additional prison time would place him not among his peers but among others in federal prison serving life sentences. In prison, Carruthers would not have the opportunity for rehabilitation or to learn a trade, Bellmore said.

Bellmore said Carruthers did not object to paying restitution and that prison rehabilitation programs could increase his chance of finding a job after his sentence to help pay back the debt.

"This is certainly a wake-up call. He was on the wrong path," Bellmore said.

Bellmore said Carruthers' family is supporting him, including about 10 relatives who attended the sentencing hearing. Many wrote letters to the court asking for leniency in his sentencing.

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Carruthers’ co-defendant, Germond Edward Johnson Jr., 18, of Fargo, pleaded guilty on Wednesday to one count of interference with commerce by threats and violence and a count of conspiracy to commit a robbery. Johnson is set to be sentenced Wednesday, July 6, in Fargo's federal court.

"This involved three very young men doing very stupid things," Bellmore said. "The result of this was tragic."

In a statement issued Thursday, Interim U.S. Attorney Nick Chase said, “When drug offenders bring and use firearms while committing their drug and theft trade, so many law-abiding innocent people are needlessly placed at risk and in this situation, the most innocent among us was seriously hurt.”

As the West Fargo editor, Wendy Reuer covers all things West Fargo for The Forum and oversees the production of the weekly Pioneer.
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