ND Attorney General says officers’ shooting of Mapleton man was justified and lawful

Published: Sep. 19, 2022 at 8:44 AM CDT|Updated: Sep. 19, 2022 at 4:57 PM CDT
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CASS COUNTY, N.D. (Valley News Live) - Four officers have been cleared of any wrongdoing by the North Dakota Attorney General’s Office after shooting and killing a man at his home in the 500 block of 5th St. in Mapleton on August 1, 2022.

For hours, local law enforcement say they pleaded with 35-year-old Andrew Martinez to surrender peacefully and to come out of his home unarmed.

“Andrew! Andrew! It’s the police. Can you come over to us?” one law enforcement officer can be heard yelling out to Martinez in a body camera video released to the public Monday morning.

“We’re not here to hurt you. We don’t want to hurt you. We just want to get you some help,” another officer says as he and at least two other officers can be seen in the frame with their weapons drawn, while another officer holds a heavy-duty shield.

Cass County deputies were initially called to the home for shots fired, and soon learned Martinez may be experiencing a mental health crisis. Officials believe Martinez’s mental anguish may have been prompted by alleged criminal conduct that happened prior to deputies arrival. Cass County Sheriff Jesse Jahner was unable to disclose what those allegations were or what they involve, and said those details may never be released as the victim in the case has invoked Marsy’s Law.

Officials say shortly after getting on scene, deputies heard two shots ring out from Martinez’s home. The shots can be heard in another body camera video released Monday morning.

While no one was hurt by those shots, officials say it escalated the situation and prompted a shelter-in-place for neighbors. Deputies then called in backup from North Dakota Highway Patrol, Fargo and West Fargo Police and the Metro Street Crimes Unit.

“Mr. Martinez told negotiators several times that he would be coming outside with a firearm,” Jesse Jahner said.

Neighbors told police Martinez appeared intoxicated prior to the standoff, and an autopsy showed ‘significant’ intoxication, officials said. An exact blood-alcohol level wasn’t available at Monday’s conference.

Officials say despite desperate pleas to Martinez from his father, brother and conversations with negotiators, nearly five hours after officers first arrived on scene, body camera footage shows Martinez as he starts to come out his front door. Officials say Martinez pointed an AR-15 rifle at officers and neighbors.

“Drop it!” officers yelled to Martinez.

Body camera footage stops before four Fargo Police officers, who also serve on the Metro Street Crimes Unit, fired what officials say were more than twenty rounds at Martinez. Attorney General Drew Wrigley says Martinez was hit five times and was pronounced dead at the scene. The four officers were identified as Sergeant Travis Moser, Detective Josh Heller, Detective Ryan Jasper, and Investigator Jordan Korte.

“They were left with no alternative. They have people living all over the area,” Wrigley said.

“As law enforcement, we do not train to wait and see because lives can be lost at that point,” Sheriff Jahner said. “This was a very tragic situation not only for the family, but for the officers involved and those officers who were at the scene. Those officers and their families will carry this incident with them for the rest of their lives.”

When asked if law enforcement could have left the scene and hoped Martinez would have de-escalated himself, Jahner said that wasn’t an option.

“If we drove away, what if that individual came out of the house and hurt someone else?” Jahner said. “Our sole mission and what we were trying to accomplish that day was to provide public safety to everyone who was living in that area. That was our number one priority. Our next priority was to successfully negotiate with Mr. Martinez to try and conclude that situation safely and peacefully.”

“Sergeant Moser, Detective Heller, Detective Jasper and Investigator Korte’s resort to deadly force was reasonable, it was justified and it was lawful under these circumstances,” Wrigley said.

Jahner says his office will use this incident as a training tool going forward, and says they will continue to keep the Martinez family in their prayers.

In a statement this morning, the Martinez family says they’re saddened the officers’ actions were deemed justified. They are now calling on law enforcement to re-evaluate how they respond to people experiencing mental health crises.

“It’s hard for us to understand how a call for help to save his life during one of his lowest moments ultimately ended his life,” the family said via their attorney, Tim O’Keefe.

Fargo Police Chief Dave Zibolski says he doesn’t have an exact date, but says all four of his officers involved in this incident will be back on the streets soon pending internal review.

News Conference PDF