Legal expert weighs in on deadly shooting of Mapleton man by officers

Published: Aug. 2, 2022 at 5:50 PM CDT
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MAPLETON, N.D. (Valley News Live) - One legal expert and former police officer is weighing in on what’s next in the long review process of Monday’s shooting by four Fargo officers which killed a Mapleton man.

The four officers have been placed on paid administrative leave as investigators from the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation continue to put together evidence of what unfolded in a quiet neighborhood Monday afternoon where officials say 35-year-old Andrew Martinez died. Officers say Martinez was suffering from a mental health crisis prior to their arrival.

Deputies were called to Martinez’s house in the 500 block of 5th St. in Mapleton Monday, Aug. 1, around 10 a.m. for gunshots heard by neighbors. When deputies arrived outside the home, they say they also heard gunshots.

Negotiations with Martinez to surrender peacefully went on for more than four hours, and just before 3 p.m., Cass County Sheriff Jesse Jahner says Martinez walked out his front door holding a firearm.

As a former Fargo Police officer himself, Chris Redmann, now a criminal defense attorney based out of Bismarck, understands the stress of the men and women working to keep the streets safe. He says using force is the last thing an officer ever wants to do.

“You’re forced to make these split-decision life or death decisions often times with half information or incorrect or imprecise information,” Redmann said.

While he can’t comment specifically on the Martinez incident, he says when it comes to the investigation, there isn’t one piece of evidence that will be looked at more than others. He added while most assume body camera footage is the end-all, it often time still leaves questions.

“Body cameras only show a small viewpoint of what the officer sees, and sometimes that can be incomplete or misleading,” he explained.

Redmann says in a case like Monday’s, any comments a suspect made to officers will be an important factor for investigators, as whatever was said could have caused fear or safety concerns for officers once faced with that person.

“The legal basis for an officer or anyone to defend themselves with deadly force is if they have a reasonable fear of serious bodily injury or death. So, if they’re expecting to come out guns blazing so to speak, and that person then appears, it’s pretty reasonable they were in fear for their life,” Redmann said.

He says that fear is where the investigation has a subjective component to it, as it’s up to the officer to paint a picture of what they were feeling and thinking in the moments before they fired their weapon.

Redmann adds no case is ever cut and dry and says it’s important for the public to be patient while investigators put the puzzle pieces together.

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