'I thought I was going to die': Officers involved in fatal shootout testify Tuesday

On fifth morning of the trial for Salamah Pendleton, Grand Forks County Sheriff's Sgt. Kelly McLean's body camera footage shows his perspective of the 2020 shootout that took the lives of two people, including a Grand Forks police officer.

Salamah Pendleton, right, confers with his attorney, Steven Mottinger, Thursday, July 1, 2021 at the Grand Forks County Courthouse where he is on trial in the shooting death of Grand Forks police officer Cody Holte, his mother, Lola Moore and wounding Grand Forks County Sheriff's deputy Ron Nord. Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

When Grand Forks County Sheriff's Office Cpl. Ron Nord and Sgt. Kelly McLean arrived at the South 17th Street residence of Salamah Pendleton and Lola Moore the afternoon of May 27, 2020, there were no indicators that it would be any different than any other eviction enforcement.

Both Nord and McLean testified to that on the third day of testimony in Pendleton's trial on Tuesday, July 6. Pendleton is accused of initiating a shootout with the deputies shortly after they gained entry to his apartment. He is facing two counts of murder for the deaths of Moore and Grand Forks Police Officer Cody Holte , as well as three counts of attempted murder and one count each of terrorizing, criminal mischief, reckless endangerment and possession of marijuana with intent to sell it.

On Tuesday, attorneys extensively questioned McLean, Nord, and GFPD Cpl. Pat Torok, who responded to the incident with Holte. Body camera footage of the incident captured by all three officers was also shown in court.


McLean told the jury that after Pendleton refused to open the front door, the deputies unlocked it with a key given to them by the apartment manager and went inside, where McLean said he saw Pendleton retreat to a bedroom. Moore, Pendleton's mother, was also in the apartment, but did not respond to deputies when they informed her they were there to evict him, McLean said.
McLean's body camera footage shows the deputies asking Pendleton to come out of the bedroom, where Pendleton insisted the officers were violating his right to due process, and were infringing on his constitutional rights.


After Nord kicked the bedroom door in, McLean said all he saw was a shadow and the barrel of a rifle about 3 feet inside the room. The shooting started immediately -- McLean testified that he fired a single shot into the bedroom and took cover in the bathroom.

"I thought I was going to die," he testified.

Moore was fatally injured in the first round of shooting, and she can be seen lying in the bathroom doorway on McLean's body camera as he hides in the bathroom. He testified that he was unable to give her medical attention because doing so would have put him within Pendleton's line of sight. After Torok and Holte entered the apartment minutes later, McLean joined them in the kitchen, since Pendleton's door had closed.

In her opening statement, Grand Forks County State's Attorney Carmell Mattison told the jury that ballistics analysis would later show that Moore was killed by a bullet from Pendleton's AK-74 rifle that traveled through the bedroom wall and struck her in the head. In body camera footage, Pendleton appears to have not realized that was the case at the time. He can be heard shouting repeatedly that the officers killed Moore.

"You killed my mother," he shouts over and over. "Why is my mother dead?"

"You broke into my apartment, you're breaking in, and you're trying to kill us," he can be heard saying as officers attempt to negotiate with him. "...I have the right to defend myself and my family in my home."


The officers can be heard telling Pendleton that he needs to come out and surrender his weapon so that they can safely bring paramedics in to help Moore. Pendleton at one point responds that he doesn't intend to hurt anyone, but he won't surrender until his mother receives medical attention. Holte can be seen on camera leaning a table on its side for cover.

When Pendleton rushed out of the bedroom, McLean testified that at first he thought the man was making a run for the front door -- but instead, Pendleton hid behind a dividing wall in the apartment and opened fire at the officers. Torok testified that it seemed Pendleton was shooting from the hip, and it was unclear if he was targeting any of the officers or just sweeping gunfire across the room.

For a few moments on Torok's body camera footage, Holte can be seen during the shootout on the floor face-down.

The shootout lasted a matter of seconds, and when it ended Pendleton can be heard shouting that he's hit, and he's dead. McLean testified that he rushed forward to train his weapon on Pendleton and ensure he was no longer a threat to the officers in the apartment.

Nord, who was shot in the upper thigh and abdomen, went downstairs for help, where he was met by more officers and collapsed.

Off-screen in McLean's body camera footage as he stood over Pendleton, officers can be heard shouting for an ambulance and saying repeatedly: "Hang in there, Cody."

Torok's body camera footage ended as he rushed to help Holte. He testified that immediately he could see a "devastating" wound on Holte's right arm that left the bone exposed and the flesh nearly gone. He began giving emergency aid to Holte's arm before realizing that, normally, a victim of such an injury would be screaming -- the fact that Holte was silent made him concerned that he had a much more serious injury, Torok said.

As more officers came into the apartment to help, Torok said they located a wound on Holte's ribs, and as they waited for paramedics he said he applied pressure and continuously spoke to Holte to keep him alert.


"As I was initially trying to talk to him, there was eye movement," Torok said. "By the time medical got there, I didn't think he was still with us."

The trial will continue on Wednesday, July 7.

What To Read Next
Get Local