It will be another week or two before Grand Forks County's top prosecutor decides whether to press charges against the UND police officer who shot a Grand Forks man.

Grand Forks County State's Attorney David Jones has received most of the investigative reports, audio recordings and video recordings - among them footage from city officers' newly rolled-out body-worn cameras - relevant to the shooting outside Altru Hospital early Feb. 28, Jones said Friday.

WDAY logo
listen live
watch live

Peter Welte, the attorney representing officer Jerad Braaten, who fired his weapon, said the investigation should be fairly "straightforward."

"Unlike most investigations, this is an investigation that's recorded by video and audio, so not much of the facts are in question," Welte said.

The night of the shooting was captured by cameras on police officers, in squad cars and on Altru's facade.

Jones said he will take time this weekend to sort through the footage and hopes to have the evidence reviewed by mid-week.

From there, Jones will issue an opinion on whether Braaten's application of force was justified under North Dakota law.

"I'm not going to rush to judgment in reviewing it all," Jones said, saying his opinion could come out next week or the following week.

Braaten shot 41-year-old David James Elliott multiple times in the Altru parking lot after Elliott rammed his Chevrolet Silverado into a county deputy's Ford Expedition, according to the UND Police Department.

Elliott had led officers on two different high-speed chases through town earlier that night, police said.

Jones will also decide whether to press charges against Elliott, who is suspected of reckless endangerment, fleeing and eluding police officers and reckless driving.

Elliott was transferred to a hospital in the Twin Cities earlier this month, where he had more surgeries ahead of him, his wife Jennifer Elliott said Tuesday.

"It doesn't do any good to refer charges against an individual if they're back and forth" between hospitals, Jones said Tuesday.

The process

When an officer fires a weapon, that scene immediately becomes a crime scene, said Welte, who recently resigned from a more than decade-long tenure as the Grand Forks County state's attorney.

The North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigations is typically called in. Their agents secure the crime scene and collect and document the evidence, Welte said.

After carrying out their investigation, agents forward it on to the state's attorney's office, which reviews it and decides whether the officer lawfully fired weapon, Welte said.

The police department whose officer fired the weapon typically carries out an internal investigation to see whether departmental policy was followed, Welte said.

"Oftentimes the administration at a law enforcement agency won't make any calls on whether departmental policy was followed until after the criminal investigation is completed," Welte said.

Welte said he would guess the UND Police Department will do the same in this case.

Welte and his client have not heard back from the UND Police Department nor the BCI since going through the interviewing process a couple weeks ago, he said.

Generally under state law an officer is justified in using deadly force to prevent what reasonably poses a threat of serious physical injury or death to the officer or others.

Officers are not required to retreat before using deadly force.

The law evaluates such situations "from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, rather than with the 20/20 vision of hindsight," according to the U.S. Supreme Court opinion Graham v. Connor.