Jury finds Pendleton guilty of murder in deaths of his mother and a Grand Forks Police Department officer
Salamah Pendleton shot and killed his mother and a Grand Forks police officer in May 2020. On Wednesday, July 14, he was found guilty on seven of nine charges.
The incident occurred in May 2020, and also resulted in seven other charges against Pendleton. Along with the two guilty verdicts on the murder charges, he was found guilty on five other counts, including:
- Attempted murder of Grand Forks County Sheriff's Office Sgt. Kelly McLean.
- Attempted murder of Sheriff's Office Cpl. Ron Nord.
- A charge of terrorizing.
- A charge of reckless endangerment.
- And a charge of possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance.
He was found not guilty of attempted murder of Grand Forks Police Cpl. Pat Torok and a charge of criminal mischief.
The courtroom was nearly silent as the verdict was read. Pendleton stood with his hands at his sides without reacting, and a few of Holte's family members dabbed wet eyes.
The officers involved, Holte's family and defense attorney Steven Mottinger declined to comment following the reading of the verdict. The Grand Forks County State Attorney's Office also declined to comment, but said it intends to release a statement.
Grand Forks County Sheriff Andy Schneider said that time will tell whether Wednesday's verdict will offer a better chance at healing for those involved.
"It's almost over," Schneider said.
Grand Forks Police Chief Mark Nelson also acknowledged Wednesday's verdict in statement Wednesday.
"We acknowledge, with gratitude, the professionalism, sacrifice, and dedication demonstrated by all involved in this trial," he said in the statement. "We accept this verdict as the outcome of our justice system, and will continue to move forward and heal; as individuals, an organization and a community."
"Our thoughts and prayers remain with the family of Officer Cody Holte throughout this incredibly difficult time," he continued.
The jury gave its verdict shortly after 3:30 p.m. Wednesday after deliberating approximately 10 hours, beginning Tuesday.
A sentencing hearing will be held on Oct. 8.
During the nearly three-week trial , Pendleton, 42, admitted that he opened fire on police with an AK-74 when two Grand Forks County Sheriff's Office deputies attempted to evict him from his apartment in May 2020. However, the jury was left to contend with Pendleton's version of events versus what the prosecution team claimed happened.
Pendleton claims he became terrified after he thought he heard officers fired the first shots, and after seeing Lola Moore, his mother, dead on the ground, he became afraid police would kill him next.
But the state's prosecution team argued that Pendleton's recollection of events was at odds with body camera footage and the physical evidence . Ballistics analysis showed Moore was killed when one of Pendleton's bullets traveled through his bedroom wall and into the hallway where she was standing, which Pendleton conceded to during questioning. However, he maintained he hadn't known his mother was in harm's way, and he hadn't intended to hurt her.
Neighbors, GFPD officers take stand in day of emotional testimony in trial for man accused of killing officer, mother
Pendleton also testified he hadn't intended to kill Holte , and had been attempting to aim for officers' legs. He said his vision was impaired during the shooting because he did not have his glasses on, although the prosecution called that fact into question during closing arguments as well, suggesting his glasses appear to be on the ground near his feet after officers incapacitated him.
The jury was asked to consider four possible charges for the deaths of Holte and Moore: if they found him not guilty of murder with extreme indifference to the value of human life, they should then consider, in order, murder with extreme emotional disturbance, manslaughter by reckless conduct, or negligent homicide.
Pendleton's attorney argued to the jury that at best, the state's evidence supported a manslaughter conviction for Moore's death and a murder with extreme emotional disturbance conviction for Holte.
By finding Pendleton guilty of murder with extreme indifference to the value of human life, the most serious of the possible charges, the jury decided he acted willfully, recklessly, and without regard for anyone his actions might have hurt.