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No criminal charges for officers involved in Fargo, West Fargo shootings

FARGO - Cass County prosecutors have decided not to bring criminal charges against law enforcement officers involved in separate shootings of Justin Dietrich and Orlando Estrada.

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Orlando Estrada (left) & Justin Dietrich
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FARGO – Cass County prosecutors have decided not to bring criminal charges against law enforcement officers involved in separate shootings of Justin Dietrich and Orlando Estrada.

Dietrich was fatally shot March 12 during a standoff with SWAT team members in a West Fargo neighborhood.

According to a memo released Wednesday, May 30, by the Cass County State’s Attorney’s Office, Dietrich refused to comply with officers’ commands to peacefully exit his pickup truck. Dietrich made several comments about how he was not going to jail alive and told officers, “If I come out of this vehicle, I’m taking one of you with me,” the memo stated.

Dietrich got out of his vehicle at about 10:30 p.m. March 12 and dropped a handgun before picking it up and pulling another gun out of his pants, the memo said. He first raised the guns to about shoulder height and then lowered them to waist level, pointing them in the direction of the officers, at which time four officers shot Dietrich, the memo said.

“Dietrich’s behavior put the officers in a predicament,” Cass County State’s Attorney Birch Burdick said. Since Dietrich’s behavior was erratic and the incident was taking place in a residential area, he posed a public safety risk, Burdick said.

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Dietrich’s sister, Alyson Bring, said she doesn’t fault the police for their handling of the situation but added that her brother wouldn’t have hurt anybody.

“They don’t know him the way I do,” she said. “I think his intention was to have them fire because he, at that point, was tired of struggling with his addictions and he just wanted his struggles to be over.”

An autopsy showed that Dietrich was shot 10 times, and his blood tested positive for amphetamine, methamphetamine and alcohol, the memo stated.

His sister said the March 12 shooting is just another example of how broken the justice system is when it comes to dealing with people with mental health or chemical dependency issues.

“Most people that have come in contact with the criminal justice system either have a mental health issue, a chemical dependency issue or both,” said Bring, who’s an attorney.

The four SWAT team members who shot at Dietrich were Fargo Police Sgts. Shane Aberle and Troy Hannig, Moorhead Police Officer Brandon Desautel and Clay County Deputy Kyle Diekmann.

Fargo Police Chief David Todd said an internal investigation of the two Fargo officers’ conduct was completed and found that both followed protocol and training. They have returned to duty and completed a psychological evaluation, Todd said.

Moorhead Police Chief David Ebinger said their internal investigation is still underway.

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Diekmann has been cleared by the Clay County Sheriff’s Office since he didn’t violate any policy, Chief Deputy Stephen Landsem said.

The second shooting, which resulted in no criminal charges against police, occurred March 21 when officers responded to a south Fargo apartment for a domestic disturbance.

Burdick said Estrada was violating a court order by being at the apartment and officers could see two men, later identified as Estrada’s brother and father, fighting with Estrada. Officers were able to get a woman, who lived at the apartment, and her 5-year-old son outside into the hallway.

After repeatedly being asked to come out of the apartment, Estrada opened the door with a large knife held above his shoulder and made stabbing motions with the knife toward an officer, according to the Cass County State’s Attorney’s Office. At that point, Fargo Officer Jacob Rued fired two shots through the door as Estrada was closing it.

Estrada was wounded but survived the shooting. Medical records showed that he had amphetamines and marijuana in his system, along with a blood alcohol level of 0.17 percent, according to the State’s Attorney’s Office.

Todd said an internal investigation into Rued’s shooting found that he used appropriate force. Rued completed a psychological evaluation and is back on duty, the chief said.

Estrada is being held in Cass County Jail on charges of attempted aggravated assault against law enforcement, terrorizing and violating a no-contact order.

Estrada has pleaded not guilty to all charges and has a felony dispositional conference set for July 26. His attorney, Paul Merkens, declined to comment on the case Wednesday.

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Related Topics: POLICEWEST FARGO
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