Terry DeVine column: Fargo cop was doing his job

I've had calls this week from people who don't understand how a police officer could shoot someone five times and then be cleared of all possible charges in the victim's death.

I've had calls this week from people who don't understand how a police officer could shoot someone five times and then be cleared of all possible charges in the victim's death.

I guess some people just don't get it.

Fargo Police Officer Brad Zieska was doing exactly what he was trained to do when he took down 25-year-old Jesse Ellingson, who was only 10 feet away, bearing down on him with a machete, when he opened fire with his 9 mm Glock semiautomatic pistol.

Zieska fired seven shots from his 15-round clip, hitting Ellingson five times.

Two callers wanted to know why Zieska couldn't have just winged Ellingson, stopping him in his tracks.


Well, this isn't Hollywood and Zieska isn't John Wayne or Steven Seagal. In real life, that's not the way it happens.

Zieska kept firing until his assailant went down, just as he is trained to do. It's unfortunate that someone had to die, and I'm certain no one feels more strongly about that than Zieska himself.

Being a police officer is a stressful and demanding job, one requiring many attributes, and compassion is near the top of the list.

Officers have to think and react almost instantaneously. Thankfully, Zieska did, or we'd have been attending his funeral back in early February.

Water is most important

As U.S. soldiers and Marines approach Baghdad, they are finding that their best friend in stifling desert heat is precious water.

Daytime temperatures are in the 100-degree range. I've paid attention to the kind of gear the soldiers are humping, and I'm guessing they're carrying between 80 and 90 pounds of gear apiece. They also have to occasionally don gas masks and chemical suits, which must be excruciatingly uncomfortable.

Even though desert heat is a dry heat, it rapidly dehydrates an individual and makes him/her vulnerable to heat exhaustion and heat stroke.


In 1966, in California's Mojave Desert, we followed a heat index protocol. All physical activity ceased when temperatures went above 98 degrees.

Things were different in Vietnam. Temperatures there often soared to 105 or above. That, coupled with 100 percent humidity, was potentially lethal. I went down one time in that heat. It was akin to operating inside a furnace.

I carried three canteens of water; some guys carried as many as five. Weight was always a factor.

One of my greatest fears was not having enough ammunition for my M-16 rifle, or enough grenades, so I opted to carry more of those and less water, hoping we would be resupplied with water before dark.

Ammunition was at the top of the resupply priority list. Every now and then, it would get dark before the water in a big black bladder could be brought in by helicopter. At those times I found myself wishing I carried more water.

Often we had to take water from some pretty awful-looking rivers and streams, then put purifying tablets in the canteens. It tasted awful, but it was wet.

Our corpsmen were trained to differentiate between heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Victims of heat exhaustion, caused by excessive loss of salt and water, had clammy skin. Body temperatures would soar in heat stroke victims, whose skin was dry. They often went into convulsions. The most important thing was getting their temperatures down immediately, sometimes by throwing them into a trailer called a water buffalo filled with block ice.

Readers can reach Terry DeVine at (701) 241-5515 or

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