Pendleton trial: Frame-by-frame body cam footage analysis shows Holte's final moments

On final day of testimony by state's witnesses in the trial for Salamah Pendleton, a state investigator showed jury frame-by-frame analysis of body camera footage depicting the fatal shootout in

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
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In a frame-by-frame analysis of body camera footage capturing the instant that shooting broke out in Salamah Pendleton's Grand Forks apartment in May 2020, North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation Special Agent Derek Madsen paused on a frame the moment after GFCSO Cpl. Ron Nord kicked Pendleton's bedroom door in. Madsen drew the jury's attention to a thin line of white light streaking inches past Nord's head.

That streak of light, which police identified as the first shot fired on May 27, 2020, came 0.367 seconds after Nord opened the door, Madsen said.

The freeze-frame analysis of the shooting that claimed the lives of Grand Forks woman Lola Moore and Officer Cody Holte was the final evidence presented by the state in the trial for Pendleton on Friday, July 9. Testimony will resume on Monday, July 12, when the defense is expected to begin calling witnesses.

Pendleton, 42, is accused of initiating fire on Nord and GFCSO Sgt. Kelly McLean when they attempted to evict him and Moore, his mother, from their Grand Forks apartment. He is charged with two counts of murder, three counts of attempted murder, and one count each of criminal mischief, terrorizing, reckless endangerment and possession of marijuana with intent to sell it. If convicted of murder, Pendleton could face up to life in prison.


On Friday, the jury also viewed autopsy photos of Holte and Moore presented by Dr. Mark Koponen, the UND professor of pathology who performed the autopsies.

Koponen concluded that Moore was killed by a brain injury caused by a single devastating gunshot wound about 3.5 inches above her right ear, which left an open wound measuring approximately 4 inches by 2.5 inches. Koponen testified that with immediate medical attention, there's a chance Moore might have survived the injury, but she never would have fully recovered, and likely would have been incapacitated for the rest of her life.

In the freeze frame analysis, Madsen pointed to the moment Moore was apparently struck by the round from Pendleton's AK-74 in the first round of shooting, which lasted about 16 seconds. Through the motion blur of the camera as McLean dove for cover amid the first shots, Moore can be seen standing in a seemingly unnatural position in one frame, and beginning to drop in the next.

Other law enforcement agents previously testified that it's difficult to tell where exactly Holte was during the 19-second second round of shooting. Madsen's freeze frame analysis offered a clearer answer to that question on Friday.

Moments before the shooting broke out, Holte can be seen crouching behind a wooden dining room table he had turned over for cover. In a frame-by-frame analysis, Madsen shows Holte scrambling for cover behind a refrigerator when a figure resembling Pendleton appears to fire at the officers from across the kitchen, directly in front of the table. In the next frame, what appear to be sparks can be seen streaking away from Holte's body -- Madsen hypothesized this is the moment a bullet ricocheted off Holte's body camera, damaging it and causing the loss of his camera footage from the incident.

Grand Forks Detective Nicholas Fugazzi also testified on Friday that when Holte's body camera was recovered, the lens cap that activates the camera was missing, and electrical components of the camera were exposed. The body camera company assisted GFPD in attempting to retrieve the footage, but they found that the damage to the camera also irreparably damaged Holte's file of the incident.

In Madsen's freeze frame analysis, a few frames after Holte's camera was possibly damaged, Holte can be seen lying face-down on the floor.


Koponen testified that Holte suffered three gunshot wounds, as well as a number of abrasions on his face and back, likely caused by fractured bullets or debris hitting him as the dining room table in front of him took fire. All three gunshot wounds traveled through Holte's body from right to left, which indicates to Koponen that Holte received all three wounds in rapid succession. He was shot once in each of his arms, with each of those two injuries resulting in catastrophic exit wounds Koponen said could have been fatal if left untreated.

However, Holte's fatal wound was a gunshot wound in his back, which fractured three ribs as it passed across his body, severing multiple arteries, penetrating his lung near its connection to his heart and traveling through his esophagus and diaphragm. The bullet was recovered in Holte's stomach, Koponen said. The wound resulted in massive internal bleeding, which caused his death.

Dr. Frans Maritz, a firearms expert from the South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigations who performed ballistics analysis in the case, testified that the bullets that killed Holte and Moore were consistent with what would be used in Pendleton's AK-74, although he was unable to positively determine that the bullets came from Pendleton's rifle specifically -- however, he was able to conclusively rule out the Glock pistols and AR-15 rifles used by police.

Madsen noted that during the shooting, it's difficult to confirm that the figure seen in the footage who appears to be shooting at police is Pendleton -- however, he noted that the figure appears to be dressed similarly as Pendleton was that day. He also testified that a sweep of the apartment after the shooting found no one else in the residence.

Pendleton also suffered gunshot injuries on both his thighs, as well as his shoulder, forearm, hand and ankle, Madsen said.

After the state rested and the jury was dismissed for the weekend, defense attorney Steven Mottinger argued that the state had not met its burden of proof for Pendleton's eight charges, excluding intent to sell marijuana, and asked presiding Judge Donald Hager to dismiss those eight charges. Hager denied Mottinger's request.

The defense will begin calling witnesses on Monday, when Pendleton is also expected to testify. Attorneys are expected to give their closing arguments on Tuesday, July 13.

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