PEMBINA SHOOTING: 'Then BJ was dead'Eyewitness says confrontation quickly turned deadly
Miguel Medina-Romero, 25, is charged in the shooting death Saturday night of Bryon "BJ" Kalis, 19, Walhalla outside a Medina-Romero's residence in Pembina, N.D. Bail was set at $1 million Monday.
By: Archie Ingersoll, Grand Forks Herald
PEMBINA, N.D. — Ben Ohmann said he was just feet away when his friend shot and killed his other friend Saturday night in this town along the Canadian border. It was a violent clash Ohmann did not see coming.
“Friday night, we were all good, and then 24 hours later this happens,” the 17-year-old said.
Ohmann said he went to Miguel Medina-Romero’s place Saturday night to hang out and was there for about 15 minutes before a car started circling the block.
Medina-Romero, 25, went outside and Ohmann followed; Ohmann said he didn’t know what was going on. Once they were outside, Ohmann saw Medina-Romero was carrying a gun.
The car stopped in front of the house, and Bryon “BJ” Kalis, a 19-year-old friend of Medina-Romero and Ohmann, got out holding a bat, Ohmann said.
Medina-Romero stood his ground as Kalis approached, Ohmann said. “Then the only words that BJ says are, ‘Shoot me, (expletive),’ and then bang.”
Ohmann said he heard six to eight shots in rapid succession, “and then BJ was dead, like, instantly.” He said Medina-Romero had stepped back to plant a foot and fired from the hip, hitting Kalis in the torso at close range.
“I don’t know how the legal stuff goes, but I would say that Miguel was defending himself,” Ohmann said. “I know he shot on purpose, but I’m pretty sure he killed on accident.”
Ohmann said he heard Medina-Romero swearing after the shooting and saying, “What did I do?”
According to a criminal complaint, the shooting occurred about 8:12 p.m. At 8:20 p.m., Medina-Romero called the Pembina County Sheriff’s Office, and reported that an intruder had been shot at his house, which sits across the street from Assumption Catholic Church, Sheriff Brian Erovick said.
Erovick said paramedics were not able to resuscitate Kalis at the scene. An autopsy is scheduled for today in Bismarck, the sheriff said.
Officers searched the house and found Medina-Romero’s gun, a .223-caliber, short-barreled rifle without a shoulder stock, Erovick said.
In the home, authorities also discovered 10 to 12 marijuana plants, which were seized along with the gun, Erovick said.
Erovick said it’s not known if the shooting was related to drugs. Authorities are speculating on a motive, but Erovick declined to discuss it because of the ongoing investigation.
Thanh Kim, a 64-year-old retiree who lives in the same house as Medina-Romero, said he heard the shots as he watched television Saturday night. He said Medina-Romero told him afterward that the shooting was over jewelry.
Meanwhile, Ohmann and his friends, Chris Erdmann and Alex Hillukka, said they don’t know why one of their friends shot the other.
“We would love to know,” 17-year-old Erdmann said. “The worst part is those two were friends, as close as all of us are.”
The three said they knew Kalis, who lived in Walhalla, N.D., a town about an hour away, because he would often visit Pembina. Hillukka, 19, said he would drive Medina-Romero to work.
“Nobody saw this coming,” Hillukka said. “It’s weird behavior for both of them.”
The sheriff said neither Medina-Romero nor Kalis had criminal records.
On Monday, Ohmann, Erdmann and Hillukka stood in the yard where the shooting took place. Hillukka pointed to a patch of grass that was stained deep red with what appeared to be blood.
They said they’re still reeling from the shooting.
“Today, I’ve probably cried 10 times,” Ohmann said.
“It doesn’t hit me till I’m alone thinking about,” Hillukka said.
Medina-Romero, who was arrested at the scene of the shooting, appeared Monday in state District Court in Cavalier, N.D., on charges of murder and drug possession.
He told the judge he has lived in Pembina for a year and eight months. He said he has worked for UPS in Pembina for a year.
Before he moved to Pembina, he lived in Puerto Rico, where his family is from. State’s Attorney Stuart Askew said he believes Medina-Romero has an aunt who lives in Pembina.
Medina-Romero was represented by attorney Neil Fleming of Cavalier. Fleming declined to comment after the hearing. Askew said he expects the defense will make a self-defense argument.
Medina-Romero is being held at the Pembina County jail on $1 million bail. His future court date has not been set.
On the murder charge, Medina-Romero faces a maximum penalty of life without parole.
Askew, who’s been a prosecutor in the county for 11 years, said murders in the county are “very rare.”
Erovick said the last murder investigation in the county was a murder-suicide in Walhalla on Thanksgiving Day last year.
Reach Ingersoll at (701) 780-1269; (800) 477-6572, ext. 269; or send e-mail to email@example.com.