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Thief River Falls man in birthday shooting sentenced to 7½ years

THIEF RIVER FALLS--A Thief River Falls man who nearly killed another when he fired a gun at a birthday party at a rural Pennington County farm was sentenced Monday to 7 1/2 years in prison.

Trevor Lee Brown

THIEF RIVER FALLS-A Thief River Falls man who nearly killed another when he fired a gun at a birthday party at a rural Pennington County farm was sentenced Monday to 7½ years in prison.

Trevor Lee Brown, 24, said little as Judge Kurt Marben handed down the sentence in Pennington County District Court. Brown pleaded guilty Oct. 12 to a felony charge of first-degree assault. Two other charges-second-degree attempted murder and reckless discharge of a firearm, both felonies-were dismissed. He entered into a Norgaard plea agreement, meaning he could not recall any of the facts of the case.

The sentence is the result of an Aug. 9, 2015, shooting that put Ryan Houle of Thief River Falls in the hospital. The Pennington County Sheriff's Department responded at 2:37 a.m. to the 13200 block of 190th Avenue Southeast, about 5 miles southeast of Thief River Falls, where they found a wounded Houle lying on a barn floor.

"It was my birthday party, kids put it on for me, and then this happened," Houle's father, Robert Houle, told Forum News Service.

Lifesaving efforts by deputies kept Houle from dying from two gunshot wounds to his chest, which investigators said came after a fight broke out at the birthday party. Court documents detail how Houle tacked Brown, who shot a gun into the barn's ceiling before shooting Houle.


Brown left the residence but was arrested the same day in Goodridge, Minn., about 20 miles east of Thief River Falls.

Prosecutors had asked for Brown to serve 20 years in prison, the maximum sentence under Minnesota law for first-degree assault, but defense attorney Blair Nelson argued for a lighter sentence of just probation.

"(Brown) was tackled by Mr. Houle, something Mr. Brown did not expect, and that's when Mr Houle got shot," Nelson said during the hearing.

Prosecutors said Houle was not an aggressor but a hero, stating Brown was an uninvited guest who fired a gun in a barn full of people.

"No one was in fear of their lives until Mr. Brown pulled out a gun and shot it into the ceiling," said Kirsten Hanson, a Pennington County assistant attorney and prosecutor for the case.

But Brown was sentenced to 7½ years in prison and given 491 days' credit for time served. He must serve at least two-thirds of his sentence, meaning he could be released in less than five years.

Ryan Houle's family had hoped the attempted murder charge would stick, with his sister stating she and her family "will always remember him gasping for air, with blood coming out of his nose and mouth."

When asked by Marben if he wanted to apologize, Brown said no. He was escorted out of the courtroom to begin his sentence.



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