On the seventh day of trial for Salamah Pendleton, state investigators walked jurors through their reconstruction of the shooting that resulted in the deaths of two people in Pendleton's apartment in May 2020.
Investigators testified on Thursday, July 8, that the crime scene in Pendleton's apartment resembled a "war zone," with bullet holes from floor to ceiling and glass, shell casings and blood covering the floor.
"I could actually smell blood," Jeramie Quam, a special agent with the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation, testified.
Prosecutors allege Pendleton, 42, opened fire on two Grand Forks County sheriff's deputies on May 27, 2020, when they attempted to evict Pendleton and his mother, Lola Moore, from their South 17th Street apartment. The shooting continued after two Grand Forks police officers also responded to the gunfire.
Pendleton is charged with two counts of murder for the deaths of Moore and Officer Cody Holte, as well as three counts of attempted murder for each of the other three officers in the apartment. He is also charged with one count each of criminal mischief, terrorizing, reckless endangerment and possession of marijuana with intent to sell it.
The majority of testimony on Thursday focused on officers' process to reconstruct the event as it happened. Quam and NDBCI Special Agent Scott Kraft each explained how investigators identify entry and exit points of individual bullet holes and use lasers to map the flight path of bullets through walls and other surfaces.
Quam explained that this was how investigators determined Moore was killed by a bullet from Pendleton's rifle and not by police. They mapped the bullet's path from inside Pendleton's bedroom, where he initially opened fire, and through his bedroom wall. The bullet should have continued into the wall across the hall, but when investigators found no such damage in that wall, they determined, based on the position of Moore's body, that the bullet was stopped by her skull.
Quam agreed with defense attorney Steven Mottinger that Pendleton would not have known that his mother was just on the other side of his bedroom wall, but he also agreed with Grand Forks County Assistant State's Attorney Ashlei Neufeld that firing through the wall at all was reckless.
A similar reconstruction showed that Grand Forks County Sheriff's Cpl. Ron Nord was struck in the leg and abdomen after Pendleton fired through kitchen cabinets, likely from a very low position -- either from his hip or knee, or from a crouching position, Kraft said.
Kraft conceded that it's difficult to know with any certainty whether Pendleton was aiming for officers or shooting indiscriminately. However, based on the fact that Pendleton appeared to have varied the height at which he was shooting, Kraft said his opinion is that Pendleton was likely aiming at the officers.
Investigators did not perform a trajectory analysis on the round dining room table Holte turned on its side to use for cover, because it would be impossible to place the table back in the exact position it was in during the shooting, the agents testified. It was also difficult to determine exactly where Holte was during the shooting, Kraft said.
They did determine that Holte did not fire his weapon, Quam said.
Among other testimony on Thursday was that of Scott Herz, a forensic scientist with the North Dakota State Crime Lab, whose analysis confirmed the marijuana found in Pendleton's apartment was, in fact, marijuana. Also, Grand Forks County Sheriff's investigator Jacob Lanes confirmed Nord fired 14 rounds from his Glock pistol and Grand Forks County Sheriff's Sgt. Kelly McLean fired five rounds from his.
Testimony will resume Friday morning, July 9, when the state is expected to finish calling witnesses. The defense is expected to begin calling witnesses early next week, and attorneys are expected to give their closing arguments on Tuesday.