Pendleton trial: Apartment manager, responding officers take stand on first day of testimony
The apartment manager, a Grand Forks patrol officer and a Grand Forks County Sheriff's deputy all described what they saw the day shooting broke out in a Grand Forks apartment, killing two people. Salamah Pendleton, the alleged shooter, will testify on a future date.
The third day of the trial for Salamah Pendleton offered the public its first real glimpse into what happened inside a Grand Forks apartment where two people were killed on May 27, 2020 , including a Grand Forks police officer.
Pendleton is accused of opening fire on two Grand Forks County Sheriff's deputies, Cpl. Ron Nord and Sgt. Kelly McLean, when they attempted to enforce an eviction. When the shooting ended, Pendleton's mother, Lola Moore, had been killed when one of Pendleton's bullets allegedly penetrated the bedroom wall and struck her in the head. Grand Forks Police Officer Cody Holte , who responded to the deputies' call for help, suffered multiple gunshot wounds to his upper extremities. He was later pronounced dead at the hospital.
Nord also suffered a gunshot wound in his upper leg. Grand Forks Police Cpl. Patrick Torok, who responded along with Holte, was uninjured, but his shoe was taken as evidence after a bullet grazed it and nearly tore it in half, according to testimony.
The state alleges that Pendleton opened fire using an AK-74 assault-style rifle. Charging documents and police statements previously stated the gun was an AK-47, and previous Herald coverage reflected this. The charges were updated Thursday morning with the more accurate model.
Pendleton, 42, is charged with two counts of murder, three counts of attempted murder, criminal mischief, reckless endangerment, terrorizing and possession of marijuana with intent to sell it. If convicted of murder, he could spend up to life in prison.
In his opening statement, defense attorney Steven Mottinger reminded the jurors that there are two sides to every story, and urged them to wait to see all the evidence before making up their minds.
Pendleton also intends to testify for the jury.
"He's got a story to tell," Mottinger said. "And he wants to tell it."
On the afternoon of May 27, 2020, Andrew Horge met Nord and McLean in the parking lot of the apartment complex he owns. He said that when Pendleton and Moore failed to pay rent, and then did not respond when apartment management reached out to them, he initiated the eviction process. Nord and McLean were there with a court order to enforce the eviction.
Body camera footage shows Horge leading the deputies up the stairs to apartment #303, where they knocked and identified themselves as police. Pendleton can be heard in the footage asking what he can help the deputies with, and asking the deputies to leave the eviction paperwork outside, and the deputies responded asking him to open the door.
Horge testified that around that time, a tenant across the hall briefly opened the door, but Horge told him to go back inside.
When Pendleton's door remained unopened, the deputies unlocked it using the key he had given them, but the door had been blocked with a two-by-four and a chair. After McLean forced the door open, Pendleton allegedly retreated to a locked bedroom.
On body camera footage, Moore can be seen standing with deputies in the hall as they knock on the bedroom door. The footage ends before the door is opened.
Horge testified that when Pendleton wouldn't open the bedroom door, the deputies requested his permission to break down the door. He said they could.
When the deputies went inside, Horge remained outside, he told the jury on Thursday. When shooting erupted from inside the apartment, Horge said he believes he crouched to the ground - but he admits that in the shock of the moment, those several seconds are very fuzzy.
"I lost a little bit of memory," he said.
The first volley lasted about 16 seconds, according to Grand Forks County Deputy State's Attorney Carmell Mattison. When the first round of shooting ended, Horge said there were bullet holes everywhere that had struck water lines within a few feet of him, and he realized he was in a "bad situation."
Horge made his way through the complex, warning neighbors to stay inside, lock their doors and get to safety. He called his assistant to begin contacting every tenant to warn them about the situation. After checking the rest of the complex, he made his way back to apartment #303, where he found only "eerie silence."
That was when Torok and Holte came up the stairwell behind him. Horge put his hands up, identified himself as the property manager, and pointed them toward the first door on the left. The two officers disappeared inside the apartment.
When the second round of shooting began, Horge retreated to the opposite side of the building. He wouldn't return to the apartment until after investigators had left.
He found bullet holes in walls, appliances, and windows, and blood everywhere in the apartment, in the halls and down the stairs. Bullet holes were found in neighboring apartments and in a neighboring building.
"It was a mess," he said.
Grand Forks Police Officer Heather Hopkins
Grand Forks Police Officer Heather Hopkins was on patrol in the area near the Knights Inn and Suites on North 47th Street when a report that shots had been fired came over her radio. Hopkins testified that she immediately activated her lights and siren and sped to the scene.
Hopkins' in-car camera footage recorded messages from dispatch as the situation progressed -- first that one female was down, and another subject was barricaded. Then that one deputy was in the bathroom and one was in the kitchen, and they were unable to get out. And then that one person was down, and they needed help.
Hopkins testified that when she arrived at the intersection between 24th Avenue and South 17th Street, she went to work directing traffic and securing the perimeter. It wasn't yet clear if it was safe for paramedics to go inside the building -- but when Torok radioed that an officer was down, Hopkins said she gave her "plate carrier" bulletproof vest to a paramedic so they could go to the officers' assistance.
Soon after, Hopkins testified that she saw several officers carrying Holte out of the building and load him into an ambulance. A short time later, Pendleton was also carried out of the building and brought to an ambulance. Hopkins volunteered to accompany Pendleton to the hospital. They went to the Altru emergency room, where she stayed in his hospital doorway until she asked a sheriff's deputy to take over.
That was the end of her involvement in the case, she testified. When questioned by Mottinger, she confirmed that she had no personal knowledge of what happened in apartment #303.
Grand Forks County Sheriff's Deputy Blake Buchmeier
Grand Forks County Sheriff's Deputy Blake Buchmeier testified that he had just sat down at his desk in the sheriff's office when the report of shots fired came over the radio. He leapt up, knocking his office chair over, and ran for his squad car. As he ran through the offices, he noted Sgt. Thomas Inocencio in his office also scrambling for his vest.
"So I knew I wasn't hearing things," Buchmeier said.
He sped to the scene and met with two Grand Forks police officers, where they saw a number of people on the sidewalk and hiding in a garage. The small team of officers approached the apartment building, using a SWAT vehicle as cover, when gunshots began ringing out of the window above them, he said.
Buchmeier said it was clear many rounds were being fired from many weapons. He could hear falling debris coming down around the officers, and it appeared that the SWAT vehicle was taking gunfire.
He said they began trying to plan how to make a break for the door, when someone shouted from inside the building that they were with the Grand Forks Sheriff's Office and they were coming outside. Body camera footage shows Nord exit the building moments later, and Buchmeier approached him.
"'You have to get up there, there's an officer down,'" Buchmeier recalls Nord saying. He then noticed Nord's leg appeared to be injured. He alerted a medic who was a short ways behind him, and proceeded into the building. Buchmeier was the first officer inside other than the four who had responded to the incident originally.
At that time, Buchmeier said he was unaware there were any officers inside the apartment besides McLean, and he assumed that's who was down. When he reached the third floor, he shouted the sergeant's name. McLean responded, telling Buchmeier to come inside.
In the apartment, he found Pendleton on the ground and McLean standing above him with his service weapon drawn. Buchmeier also drew his weapon, but McLean instructed him to go help Torok and Holte.
Body camera footage showed Buchmeier turn and see Holte on the ground with Torok kneeling over him.
At that time, Buchmeier testified that Holte was breathing, and his head and eyes were moving, although there was a significant amount of blood. They rendered medical aid until an Altru paramedic arrived, and instructed the officers to help carry Holte outside. As they carried him, more officers joined to help bear the load.
Once Holte was outside, Buchmeier said he ran back to the apartment to help carry Pendleton outside. Once Pendleton was outside, Buchmeier removed a loaded pistol from Pendleton's pants pocket, as well as a full magazine for his rifle.
At that point, Inocencio took over control of the scene from Buchmeier. Buchmeier testified that that was the end of his involvement.