Legal expert weighs in on Fargo officer-involved shooting, what’s next in investigation

Published: Jul. 12, 2022 at 5:41 PM CDT
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FARGO, N.D. (Valley News Live) - Experts are weighing in on last week’s officer-involved shooting in south Fargo that left one man dead.

11-year Fargo Police veteran Adam O’Brien remains on administrative leave as investigators from the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation continue to pour over the details of what lead up to his fatal shot of 28-year-old Shane Netterville.

Neterville and two other men were slumped over in a van inside of a garage last Friday, and court documents say when cops responded to the scene Neterville ‘began to flee directly towards officers’ and shortly after, O’Brien fired his weapon.

Attorney Mike Geiermann says when it comes to investigating an officer-involved shooting, officials go through a two-step process. He says the first step is whether it was reasonable or not for the officer to believe that he had to use deadly force.

“What was going on? Did they believe they were in danger? Did they believe someone else was in danger?” Geiermann said.

Geiermann has been an attorney for the last 38 years, based in Bismarck, and has been representing officers involved in situations like July 8′s for more than two decades. He doesn’t have any affiliation with this case and doesn’t know all of the facts of the incident, but he’s more than familiar with the process of these kinds of investigations and what will be going on behind the scenes in the coming days and weeks while the public and Netterville’s family wait for answers.

Geiermann says investigators will consider all of the evidence when making a determination on the officer’s decision, including looking at body and dash cam footage, witness statements, other officer statements, forensics and toxicology reports.

“But more importantly than that, the person law enforcement really wants to talk to is the officer involved because they want to know exactly what was going through the mind of the officer when they were involved in that shooting,” he said.

Geiermann says in this case, Netterville’s intent when he tried to drive out of the garage will also be a key component in the case as the main question investigators will have to answer is: Was Netterville fleeing, or trying to run over O’Brien and his partners?

“A vehicle can certainly be considered as a weapon. You can kill someone with a car,” Geiermann said. “Also look at it from the officer’s perspective: Did he really believe that that car was targeted at him and he had no other choice but to fire?”

Geiermann says this case is not cut and dry and could take some time, which Netterville’s family says they feel like is their unfortunate reality. They say they’re worried answers won’t come for weeks.

“I just want to get to the bottom and know what happened so me and my whole family can have peace of mind and ease,” Netterville’s oldest brother, Gary said.

Geiermann says the BVI usually tries to wrap up investigations like this within 30 days, and will then pass it’s findings to the Cass County State’s Attorney’s Office who will also review the case file and determine if criminal charges are warranted without a reasonable doubt.

Geiermann says the longest he’s ever waited for a determination to be made in a case like this is four months. He also says in his more than 20 years representing cops, he’s never had a case where an officer was found unjustified in their use of force.

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