Neighbors, GFPD officers take stand in day of emotional testimony in trial for man accused of killing officer, mother
None of the officers questioned on Friday witnessed the shooting.
In the second full day of testimony in the trial for Salamah Pendleton, neighbors and a number of Grand Forks Police officers took the stand in a day of emotional testimony.
Pendleton, 42, is accused of opening fire on police in his apartment on May 27, 2020, when two Grand Forks County Sheriff's deputies attempted to enforce an eviction.
He is charged with the murder of GFPD Officer Cody Holte and his mother, Lola Moore, who was also in the apartment, 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.
If convicted of murder, he could face up to life in prison.
Officers who testified on Friday described what they witnessed outside the apartment during the shooting, and what they witnessed after the shooting had ended. In cross-examination, defense attorney Steven Mottinger asked each officer who testified on Friday whether they had any direct knowledge of what happened in apartment #303. Each officer replied that they only had second-hand knowledge of what actually happened during the shooting itself.
GFPD Officer Andrew Rebel
Rebel, a trained tactical paramedic with the Grand Forks Regional SWAT, met with GFCSO Deputy Blake Buchmeier and GFPD Cpl. Jared Braaten outside the apartment building.
Rebel's testimony about what happened next largely matched Buchmeier's description of events he gave Thursday, July 1: the three pressed ahead to the apartment building, using an armored SWAT vehicle as cover.
After taking cover behind the vehicle from the second round of shooting, Rebel said they witnessed GFCSO Cpl. Ron Nord, one of the initial two deputies to knock on Pendleton's door that afternoon, limp out of the building with a bloody leg and fall to the ground.
Rebel testified that he and Buchmeier took off running toward the deputy. While Buchmeier ran inside and up the stairs, Rebel stayed to help Nord into the SWAT vehicle to give him medical aid and transport him to an ambulance.
As they loaded Nord into a cot, Rebel testified that he saw another group of officers carrying Holte to a nearby ambulance.
From his brief assessment of Holte as he watched him be loaded onto the ambulance, he noted an open wound that was no longer bleeding on Holte's arm. He also noted that Holte was extremely pale, and didn't appear to be breathing.
"My assumption was that he was dead, or very close to dead," Rebel said, wiping away tears.
With all the other paramedics seemingly occupied, Rebel testified that he then "switched to paramedic mode" and drove Nord to the Altru emergency room, where he continued to work to give aid to Nord.
GFPD Officer Jesse Younggren
Younggren, a member of the Grand Forks Regional SWAT, was inside the armored vehicle as a passenger when bullets started firing out of the third story window. The officers would learn later that they were not in fact the target of the shooting, but from inside the vehicle, it sounded like they were taking direct fire.
When Rebel helped Nord into the back of the vehicle, Younggren went to work assisting Rebel to give Nord medical aid. The two attempted to reassure Nord that he would be alright, but the deputy brushed it off.
"'Don't worry about me,'" Younggren recalled Nord saying. "'You've got one of your officers up there that's hit bad.'"
When the officers were at the ambulances and Holte was carried past, Younggren said he recognized the officer immediately -- they had been hired around the same time, and were "good friends" in the department.
"He didn't look good when I saw him," Younggren said, voice breaking.
As Holte was loaded into the ambulance, Younggren joined him, and accompanied him to the Altru emergency room.
GFPD Cpl. Jared Braaten
Braaten was also a part of the group of officers who used the armored vehicle as cover.
When the shooting started above them, Braaten agreed that it seemed as if they were taking direct fire -- he said he could feel debris falling and hitting the officers, and at the time, the believed it was shrapnel. They learned later it was glass from the broken window as rounds were fired through it.
He followed Buchmeier into the apartment building, where he testified that he heard screaming and shouting coming from the third floor.
From there, everything happened fast, and he testified that his memory becomes shaky.
Inside the apartment, he recalled seeing GFCSO Deputy Kelly McLean, who accompanied Nord on the initial call, standing over Pendleton with his gun drawn. Pendleton was conscious and alert and watching the officers, but appeared to have suffered multiple injuries, Braaten recalled. A few feet away, he said he noticed Moore, who appeared to be dead in the hallway.
In front of the window that had been taking fire while Braaten was outside, Buchmeier and GFPD Cpl. Patrick Torok were kneeling over a severely injured Holte.
"At that point, I got on the radio and requested more units immediately so we could get him out of there," Braaten said, his voice breaking.
Five more officers arrived to help carry Holte downstairs, and Braaten stayed to help McLean carry Pendleton out. Pendleton was moaning, but made no statements, Braaten said.
GFPD Cpl. Jason Kaiser
While Kaiser worked on the perimeter of the scene near the Rydell Car Dealership lot, he heard Torok's voice come over the radio from inside the apartment.
"Anyone who's worked with him knows he's a pretty level-headed guy. ... You could tell from the panic in his voice that more people were needed on the scene," Kaiser said.
At that time, Kaiser testified that he rushed to the apartment, and entered the building with a number of other officers, where he encountered several people carrying Holte into the hallway.
Kaiser began to cry, and took a long moment to collect himself before proceeding.
"As soon as I saw that I just knew he was -- the injuries he sustained probably weren't something he'd survive," he said.
He helped carry Holte to the ambulance before returning to the apartment as Pendleton was being carried out. He testified that the residence smelled like a gun range, with bullet holes everywhere, running water could be heard from the damaged water lines, and tables were overturned.
After helping to do a sweep of the apartment, Kaiser said he called his wife, then returned to work at his post on the perimeter.
Fembe Maureen, the resident of the apartment next to Pendleton's, was watching a movie when the shooting started. At first, she testified that she thought it was an explosion, and she immediately ran out of her apartment.
"I was scared," she recalled.
As she left her apartment, she encountered apartment manager Andy Horge, who told her it was gunfire and she needed to get somewhere safe.
She ran outside and went to hide in her garage, where she stayed for 10 to 15 minutes.
When she was allowed to return to her apartment two days later, she found that a bullet had lodged in her bathroom wall.
Marnee Jo Vanscoy
Marnee Jo Vanscoy, the resident of the apartment directly below Pendleton's, was taking a nap when she was awoken by the shooting. Her 15-year-old son appeared in her doorway a moment later to tell her it was gunfire.
She testified that she opened the front door to see what was going on and saw Horge, who told her they needed to go somewhere safe.
Vanscoy and her son retreated to their garage, where they stayed for a minute or two until officers waved them over toward them to ask if they were OK. After that, they went to wait across the street. That's where they were when the second round of shooting happened.
"I was scared, I was still in shock," Vanscoy recalled. "I didn't know exactly what was happening."
They were allowed to return to their apartment the next morning. Their bathroom and hall had flooded due to the broken water lines, and a bullet had traveled through their ceiling and lodged in their air conditioning unit.
Martin Smith lived with his roommate across the hall from Pendleton. On May 27, he was at home sleeping when he was awoken by a bang on the door across the hallway.
He testified that he hovered at the peephole for a few minutes until the deputies disappeared inside the apartment. With nothing left to see, Smith returned to the living room.
Moments later, the shooting broke out across the hall. Smith rushed outside to his patio. Minutes later, he saw more officers approaching the building with assault-style rifles, and he went inside to lie in his bathtub.
Smith estimated that about one or two bullets had entered into his roommate's room, and about five or six bullets entered the apartment through its front door, including the peephole where Smith had been standing minutes before.
"If I had stayed there, maybe I would have been hit in the chest, or in the stomach," he said.
GFCSO Deputy Noah Prudhomme
Prudhomme estimates he's known Holte since they were about 12 years old, when the two played on school sports teams together.
He recognized his friend immediately when he saw him being carried out of the apartment building when Prudhomme responded to the report of a shooting.
His voice wavering, he described how he joined the officers to help carry Holte downstairs. He then returned upstairs to help carry Pendleton downstairs as well. Once they had laid Pendleton on the grass outside, Prudhomme helped give him medical care.
He noted multiple gunshot wounds on Pendleton's legs, and they applied tourniquets to both legs.
After helping bring Pendleton to the ambulance, he returned to help with scene security upstairs, and eventually switched to working the perimeter before being dismissed from the scene.
GFPD Cpl. Brian Robbins
After paramedics carried Holte out of the apartment, Robbins testified that he did a walk-through of the apartment to secure any weapons lying around. He found Holte's service weapon, a Glock 17, as well as two AR-15 rifles belonging to Torok and one of the sheriff's deputies, although Robbins was not sure which one.
He also noted the AK-74 rifle belonging to Pendleton.
When a detective arrived, Robbins walked him briefly through the apartment to show him the guns he had located before leaving the scene.
About two weeks later, a supervisor asked him to retrieve Holte's Glock pistol from evidence to clean and inspect it. During inspection of the gun, Robbins noticed some blood on it, some residue near the muzzle, and a bullet strike on the chamber. He testified that after cleaning it, he returned it to evidence.