ROLETTE, N.D. -- North Dakota investigators say the suspect in the January shooting death of a Rolette County sheriff’s deputy shot the officer first and that law enforcement was justified in using deadly force.
But the Rolette County state’s attorney still considers the case ongoing and open.
The North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation has closed the case on the murder of Colt Allery, a 29-year-old Rolette County sheriff’s deputy who was fatally shot by 28-year-old Melvin Gene Delong of Belcourt, N.D. Documents obtained in a records request by the Herald indicate that Delong fired first in the confrontation.
“The video depicts Deputy Allery being shot in the face and Deputy Allery not firing any shots,” the incident reports stated.
The reports include 77 pages of interviews and dash cam analysis, as well as video and supporting documents. The documents detail how the stop of a suspected stolen Chevrolet pickup turned into a fatal shootout.
A review of a Rolette County deputy’s dashcam shows officers stopping the vehicle, reportedly stolen in Devils Lake, at 6:45 p.m. Jan. 18 at a rural intersection about 5 miles northeast of Rolette after pursuing the pickup for several miles. The chase at times exceeded 80 mph, according to initial reports.
OnStar, a vehicle security system, eventually initiated technology to slow the pickup down before it came to a stop near 89th Street Northeast and 42nd Avenue Northeast.
The video showing the shooting and the minutes that followed were redacted under North Dakota law, but a timeline describing the events states Allery approached the driver’s side of the pickup with his gun drawn. When he was near the side mirror, Allery was shot twice by the suspect, identified as Delong.
Delong tried to drive away but stopped several times as Deputy Joseph Kaufman fired multiple shots at the vehicle with his handgun and shotgun. Rolla Police Chief Joe Boehm and Officer Nathan Gustafson eventually arrived at the scene.
BCI Special Agent Craig Zachmeier asked Kaufman in an interview after the incident why the deputy fired so many shots.
“Deputy Kaufman stated that the truck continued to move,” the reports state. “The truck would creep ahead.”
Boehm fired about 15 to 20 rounds from an AR-15 rifle into the stolen vehicle’s driver seat after seeing movement in the pickup cab. Gustafson also fired shots at the vehicle.
It’s unclear which shots killed Delong, who died at the scene along with Allery. Dozens of firearm casings were found at the scene with multiple gunshot holes reportedly hitting the pickup.
Testing shows the officers involved in the shooting did not have alcohol or drugs in their systems during the incident. Reports also indicate the officers had up-to-date peace officer’s licenses and weapon’s training.
It’s unclear what type of weapon Delong used in the shooting. The Department of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms continues to investigate the firearm, according to a report filed April 24. Officials also are investigating those who helped Delong steal the pickup but didn’t name the suspects.
A BCI synopsis stated the case is considered closed and that “the deadly force utilized by officers was justified.”
“No further investigation is needed in this case related to the shooting of Deputy Colt Allery and the shooting of Melvin Delong,” the report stated.
Rolette County State’s Attorney said in an email his office still considers the case ongoing and open, declining to say whether his office would press charges in the case or if he considered the officers’ actions justified.
“When I have determined the entirety of the information has been received I will send a release and summary to all news entities expressing any findings,” he wrote.
This is the first time Delong’s name has been made available to the public since the shooting. Reports indicate family members of both Allery and Delong asked their names to be redacted from public record, citing Marsy’s Law, which allows victims to have their names excluded from public record until the investigation is considered closed.
Kaufman, Boehm and Gustafson also cited Marsy’s Law as the reason to exempt their names from public record.