Shooting of unarmed man by police officer in Altru parking lot connected to federal drug trafficking probe?

by Timothy Charles Holmseth on September 22, 11:35 A.M.

On March 26, 2015, various news media published a letter sent from Grand Forks County States Attorney David Jones to UND Police Chief Eric Plummer regarding the David Elliot investigation and officer-involved shooting that involved UND officer Jerad Braaten.

Attorney Jones’ letter, which was undated, effectively cleared Braaten in any wrong-doing for shooting David James Elliot on February 28, 2015, in the Altru hospital parking lot following a pursuit by police.

But there was something going on that the public didn’t know.

There was an active federal drug trafficking probe called Operation Denial taking place in the Grand Forks area. It had begun after the death of 18-year-old Bailey Henke of Grand Forks, who overdosed in January of 2015 on fentanyl citrate, a synthetic opioid 80 to 100 times more potent than morphine.

The public learned about Operation Denial on July 28, 2015, when U.S. Attorney Chris Meyers gave a televised news conference after a major arrest had been made in the international case.

Meyers said Grand Forks County States Attorney David Jones, the Grand Forks Police Department (GFPD), and the Grand Forks Sheriff’s Office (GFSO), and the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) were all part of the operation.

U.S. Attorney Chris Meyers

U.S. Attorney Chris Meyers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“[Operation Denial] started in Grand Forks, North Dakota with the Grand Forks Police Department, the Grand Forks Sheriff’s Office, and the BCI Task Force. The States Attorneys Office here – David Jones and his staff – have been part of this effort from day one. We coordinate, plan, strategize, and work together. And that’s nothing new we’ve done that for years and will continue to do so – but their efforts in this investigation need to be highlighted,” Meyers said.

“It seems like years we’ve been working on this case – it’s been seven months, which is amazing,” Meyers said.

Meyer’s reference to “years” working on the case might have been Freudian. The Department of Justices’ organized crime task force has been active in the area since 2013 with the formation of Project Safe Bakken.

THE BAKKEN ORGANIZED CRIME STRIKE FORCE

On June 3, 2015, the Unites States Department of Justice (DOJ) issued a press release announcing the formation of the Bakken Organized Crime Strike Force.

“Federal and state law enforcement officials from North Dakota and Montana have announced the creation of the Bakken Organized Crime Strike Force.  Acting U.S. Attorney Chris Myers for the District of North Dakota, U.S. Attorney Michael W. Cotter for the District of Montana joined Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem of North Dakota to announce the Strike Force.  Director Bruce Ohr for the Organzied Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) was present for the announcement.  The multi-agency effort is aimed at identifying, targeting and dismantling organized crime in the Bakken, including human trafficking, drug and weapons trafficking, as well as white collar crimes,” said the DOJ.

“The announcement follows the 2013 creation of Project Safe Bakken, a collaborative law enforcement program in Montana and North Dakota that joins federal, state and tribal law enforcement to battle criminal activity in the Bakken,” said the DOJ.

Essentially, the “Task Force” was being given another name – “Strike Force” and particpants were being added.

Several questions are created by the ever-evolving task forces.

First – there are the agencies that were credited by Meyers as playing a role the major international arrest of Daniel Vivas Ceron, 34, who was taken into custody in Panama City by U.S. Homeland Security Investigations, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and Panamanian authorities to face drug conspiracy charges in the U.S.

Meyers appeared to name every agency that was involved in Operation Denial. He named the GFPD, GFSO, and the BCI Task Force.

He continued.

“DEA, Homeland Security, Postal Inspectors, the Portland Police Department, the Portland State Police, the Multnomah Sheriff’s Office are other agencies that have partnered in this fight. Finally, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police worked with the law enforcement agencies in the United States every step of the way,” Meyers said.

Interestingly, Meyers did not mention University of North Dakota Police Department as being part of the investigative team.

Another question that arises pertains to the BCI Task Force itself. Why is the BCI Task Force part of a federal task force?

It appears the BCI Task Force was, originally, at one point, its own entity.

GRAFTED IN TO THE FEDERAL TASK FORCE

The timeline of events shows local and state law enforcement agencies and task forces were grafted in to the federal organized crime task force AFTER the shooting of David Elliot.

THE PURSUIT AND SHOOTING

OF

DAVID JAMES ELLIOTT

David James Elliott

David James Elliott

GRAND FORKS STATES ATTORNEY DAVID JONES NARRATIVE LETTER TO UND POLICE CHIEF

AFFIDAVITS OF PROBABLE CAUSE FILED BY GFPD AND GFSO

The initial pursuit of David James Elliott officially involved the Grand Forks Police Department (GFPD).

GFPD officers wear body cameras.

On February 27, 2015, Grand Forks Police attempted to pull Elliott over for allegedly running a stop sign. Elliott would never be charged with this offense, however.

The GFPD originally took an interest in Elliott after 911 received a report of a suspicious vehicle at Wells Fargo Bank on South Columbia Road.

The 911 call itself was/is suspicious because police spokespersons will not disclose the identity of the caller. Only after consistent pressure from the media did law enforcement admit the call came from inside the bank. Even then, law enforcement would not state what Elliott had done that was suspicious.

Wells Fargo has a 24-hour ATM machine, and it is hardly suspicious for a vehicle to be outside the bank at around 10:30 P.M. In fact – it is encouraged by banks – that’s why they have 24-hour ATM machines. It is not a standard practice for banks to call 911 on their customers.

The question still remains – who called 911 on David Elliott?

Simply put – and gauging by Elliott’s immediate flight reaction to police trying to pull him over – somebody inside the bank called 911 on him to bring him in to direct contact with the police. Elliott appeared to know what was going on and that’s why he fled.

When GFPD attempted to pull Elliott over he refused to stop and a pursuit ensued; which was, theoretically, terminated shortly thereafter.

However, an examination of all the documents show Elliott remained the focus of law enforcement after the initial pursuit by the GFPD was discontinued, and he was literally running for his life.

In fact – there is evidence that even suggests he may have been hurt before he reached the Altru parking lot that night.

According to an affidavit filed by the GFPD, Grand Forks Sheriff’s Deputies deployed spike-strips against Elliot some time after the GFPD terminated their initial pursuit of Elliott for running the stop sign.

The simple fact that the GFPD called out the fact that the GFSO deployed spike-strips against Elliott shows that it must have occurred, and that everyone must know about it.

Yet – the Affidavit of Probable Cause filed by the Sheriff’s Office makes no mention whatsoever of deploying spike-strips.

That creates a tremendous public trust problem.

The Sheriff’s Office is hiding something they did to a citizen.

Why?

There can be no innocent explanation.

The answer to that question, any many more questions, is going to be found in a letter written by Grand Forks States Attorney David Jones to UND Police Chief Eric Plummer.

THE DAVID T. JONES LETTER

Grand Forks County States Attorney David Jones

Grand Forks County States Attorney David Jones

In an undated letter by Grand Forks States Attorney David Jones that addressed the David Elliott investigation and officer-involved shooting regarding Jerad Braaten, the head prosecutor for Grand Forks County created more questions than he did answers.

First – why didn’t he date his letter?

“I have had opportunity to review reports of investigation, supplemental reports, audio statements, photographic evidence, in-car videos, and PSAP recordings, all relating to the underlying investigations,” Jones said.

Jones knows exactly what happened.

Attorney Jones said the GFPD initiated a pursuit of David Elliott on February 27, 2015, and that at some point after the pursuit began, Elliott called 911.

Note: According to records the official time window of the entire event is 10:41 P.M., February, 27 – 12:52 A.M., February 28, 2015.

Jones said Elliott talked to Officer Bullinger at the GFPD and “concerns were raised that Mr. Elliott meant to do harm to himself”.

Jones did not state why Elliott called 911 in the first place, nor did he state exactly what Elliott did or said to support the assertion he wanted to harm himself.

These questions exist and/or are not addressed in Jones’ narrative:

  • What time did Elliott call 911?
  • Where was Elliott located when he called?
  • What exactly did Elliott say was the express purpose of his call?
  • Was anybody pursuing Elliott at the time he called?
  • What exactly did Elliott say that caused Bullinger to believe Elliott “meant to do harm to himself”?
  • Did Elliott say why he fled from the GFPD?
  • Did Elliott say he was injured?
  • Did Elliott call 911 more than once?
  • Did Elliott speak to any police officers on their personal cell phones?
  • Did Elliott mention spike-strips being deployed against him?
  • Did  Elliott enter Minnesota at any point
  • Did Elliott call 911 more than once?

Jones simply states “concerns were raised that Mr. Elliott meant to do harm to himself” and there is no further explanation.

Jones said the vehicular pursuit of Elliott by GFPD was discontinued by Sgt. Ellingson of the GFPD, south of Grand Forks near Thompson, North Dakota due to safety concerns.

At that point, the whereabouts of Elliott is basically unknown (or un-disclosed). He vanishes from the record until sometime after midnight. He goes off the radar and there is no public record of his movements or what is occurring (except the 911 call(s) he made which the public cannot hear).

Jones said that North Dakota State Trooper Matthew Peschong then observed Elliot’s vehicle sometime after midnight near the Oslo, Minnesota interchange.

The last time Elliott’s whereabouts are officially recorded, he is heading SOUTH toward Thompson, North Dakota, which is SOUTH of Grand Forks.

The next time Elliott is observed in the record after that, he has been spotted NORTH of Grand Forks in Walsh County.

So – apparently, Trooper Peschong has a description of Elliott’s vehicle and is on the lookout for him.  Interestingly – Peschong has the wherewithal to watch for Elliott many miles away in the opposite direction in a different county at an interstate interchange.

And as you will see – Trooper Peschong is with Grand Forks Sheriff’s Sgt. Andrew Schneider.

There is no available record of what was happening to Elliott as he covered all this distance using some unknown route.

JONES IS AMBIGUOUS ABOUT LAW ENFORCEMENT VEHICLES   

Note: GFSO Sgt. Andrew Schneider and Deputy Nathan Moen are the only deputies whose locations and activities are set forth in an affidavit to the Court.

NOTE: State Trooper Matthew Peschong did NOT provide an affidavit for the State’s case

As Jones sets forth his narrative, he inexplicably interjects GFSO Sgt. Andrew Schneider into the situation without providing any context whatsoever. He does not state whose vehicle Schneider is riding in. Jones simply and abruptly places Sgt. Schneider with Trooper Peschong out of thin air.

“Sometime after midnight on the morning of February 28th, North Dakota Highway Patrol Matthew Peschong observed the vehicle operated by Mr. Elliott near the Oslo, Minnesota exit of Interstate Highway 29. Trooper Peschong and Grand Forks Sheriff’s Sgt. Schneider then followed Mr. Elliot southbound on Interstate Highway 29, observing erratic highway behavior,” Jones said.

Jones does not state whether or not Peschong was in his official Highway Patrol vehicle, nor does he state whether or not Schneider was in his official Grand Forks County Sheriff’s vehicle. For that matter, it’s not stated whether or not either man was in a personal vehicle.

Jones appears to present Schneider and Peschong as being together but doesn’t say whose car they are in.

At the first press conference held following the shooting of Elliot, Grand Forks County Sheriff Bob Rost told news reporters that two of his deputies first joined the pursuit of Elliott in town, and then he would not answer anymore questions.

Grand Forks County Sheriff Bob Rost

Grand Forks County Sheriff Bob Rost

REPORTER: “The Sheriff’s Department is here – I mean, were you in on this chase before it ever got to Grand Forks?”

SHERIFF ROST: “A couple of my deputies. In town here, yes.

REPORTER: “You picked up on it when the chase was in Grand Forks?”

SHERIFF ROST: “Correct”

REPORTER: “Can you say what was he being pursued for?”

SHERIFF ROST: “Actually, the BCI is putting all this together. They have not finished the investigation yet. And they have more to do today. So when that’s complete I’m sure you’ll get more details.”

Rost is extremely defensive about even the simplest questions regarding the pursuit and suggests that the final truth about ‘why’ Elliott was being pursued must be decided by the BCI.

Rost’s rationale is akin to calling the weather station to see if it’s raining outside instead of just looking out the window.

Rost deferring to the BCI is compelling because it appears the BCI is still the agency in charge and has not yet become part of the federal drug probe Operation Denial.

Nonetheless, there is no ambiguity about Rost’s reply to the reporter concerning the whereabouts of his deputies on the night in question – he said they were “in town” when they became involved.

But that was not true.

He was lying.

As you will now see, Rost changed his story when he was confronted with his lie.

On March 5, 2015, at 10:57 P.M. http://www.writeintoaction.com published an article entitled “Grand Forks County Sheriff lied to news reporters during press conference regarding Altru shooting”.

On March 5, 2015, at 11:13 P.M. the Grand Forks Herald published an article entitled “Sheriff: Deputy in SUV at shooting outside Altru uninjured”.

The Grand Forks Herald reported, “Rost said state Highway Patrol troopers began following Elliott’s pickup on Interstate 29 near the Oslo, Minn., interchange on the edge of Walsh County. Sheriff’s deputies joined in near Manvel, N.D., Rost said.”

Rost changed his story and in doing so – some legally compelling information was published by the Herald.

  • Rost told the Herald there were troopers (plural) following Elliott down I-29 (that conflicts with Jones’ mention of only one trooper (singular) – Peschong)
  • Rost told the Herald that his deputies (plural) joined in near Manvel (that conflicts with Jones’ mention of only one deputy (singular), AND it conflicts with Rost’s original claim to the media that his deputies joined the pursuit in Grand Forks)
  • Rost introduced “Walsh County” into the situation. There would be no explanation for Sgt. Schneider to be in Walsh County in a Grand Forks Sheriff’s vehicle because he has no jurisdiction there (but he may have been in Walsh County if he was riding in Trooper Peschong’s highway patrol car)

Rost’s statement on March 5 to the Herald that “Sheriff’s deputies joined in near Manvel, N.D” is critical because it places OTHER deputies on Interstate 29 following Elliott.

Rost’s statement about ‘sheriff’s deputies joining in near Manvel’ is in direct conflict with Jones’s narrative that says “Sometime after midnight on the morning of February 28th, North Dakota Highway Patrol Matthew Peschong observed the vehicle operated by Mr. Elliott near the Oslo, Minnesota exit of Interstate Highway 29. Trooper Peschong and Grand Forks Sheriff’s Sgt. Schneider then followed Mr. Elliot southbound on Interstate Highway 29, observing erratic highway behavior”.

Not only does Jones appear to place Schneider and Peschong physically together in the same car; Jones does NOT refer to any OTHER deputies. If there were OTHER deputies, why is Jones only mentioning Schneider and Peschong?

Rost clearly told the Herald “Sheriff’s deputies joined in near Manvel, ND”.

There is a conflict between Rost and Jones.

Rost’s statement about “Highway Patrol troopers” and “Sherriff’s deputies” that “joined in near Manvel” creates a whole new scenario, because it indicates there may have been OTHER deputies and state troopers following and attempting to stop Elliott.

THE SECRET PURSUIT DOWN I-29

If there were other un-named deputies or state troopers involved in the I-29 pursuit of Elliott, it would explain why the GFPD made sure to state in their Affidavit of Probable Cause that they terminated their initial pursuit BEFORE the Grand Forks Sheriff’s Deputies deployed spike-strips.

Here’s why the GFPD would distance themselves from spike-strips deployed by the GFSO.

If spike-strips were being deployed against Elliott ‘off the record’ it may have been in advance of PRE-MEDIATED MURDER.

The Affidavit of Probable Cause submitted to the Court by the GFSO says “Officers followed David James Elliott without emergency lights activated on I-29”.

The Affidavit of Probable Cause submitted to the Court by the GFSO also says “David James Elliott was southbound on I-29 and was weaving from shoulder to shoulder on the interstate at times”.

The actions of the pursing officers (following with no red lights activated), and the reaction of Elliott (weaving from shoulder to shoulder), indicates Elliott was attempting to keep the pursing vehicles behind him and/or avoid spike-strips that were being set out in front of him.

At this point in the analysis you have a situation where Elliott is being pursued, for sure, by Sgt. Schneider and Trooper Peschong. If you accept Rost’s statements to the Herald, there are actually multiple deputies and troopers following Elliot.

And it’s about to get worse, because according to the Jones narrative they were trying to stop Elliott.

And according to both Jones and the GFSO affidavit, an Altru ambulance had been dispatched for Elliott, which means he may have already been harmed.

JONES ADMITS OFFICERS TRIED TO STOP ELLIOTT ON I-29 – GRAND FORKS SHERIFF’S OFFICE SAYS THEY DIDN’T

“Sometime after midnight on the morning of February 28th, North Dakota Highway Patrol Matthew Peschong observed the vehicle operated by Mr. Elliott near the Oslo, Minnesota exit of Interstate Highway 29. Trooper Peschong and Grand Forks Sheriff’s Sgt. Schneider then followed Mr. Elliot southbound on Interstate Highway 29, observing erratic highway behavior. Officers made an attempt to have Mr. Elliott come to a halt and meet with Altru Ambulance Staff at the North Washington Street exit to the City of Grand Forks, as there were concerns raised due to his apparent condition. Mr. Elliott declined to stop at the North Washington exit,” Jones said.

The Affidavit submitted to the Court by the GFSO says “Officers followed David James Elliott without emergency lights activated on I-29”.

The Affidavit submitted to the Court by the GFSO says “David James Elliott was allowed to keep driving due to him communicating that he was going to stop for Altru Ambulance on I-29 at the North Washington Exit”.

Jones has ADMITTED that officers attempted to stop David Elliott, while the GFSO has ADMITTED they did not have their red lights activated. So HOW were they trying to stop him?

Even more incriminating is the fact that the GFSO says that Elliott was “allowed to keep driving”. The Sheriff’s Office claims they didn’t try to stop him.

Jones and the GFSO are telling two different stories.

HOW did the officers attempt to stop Elliott? WHEN did they attempt to stop Elliott? WHERE did they attempt to stop Elliott?

WAS DAVID ELLIOTT PHYSICALLY HURT AS HE ELUDED POLICE AND TRIED TO REACH ALTRU HOSPITAL EMERGENCY ROOM?

Jones said officers attempted to have Elliott come to a halt because there were concerns raised due to his “apparent condition”.

Jones said officers wanted Elliott to stop at the Washington Street exit to meet with Altru Ambulance staff.

“Trooper Peschong and Grand Forks Sheriff Sgt. Schneider then followed Mr. Elliot southbound on Interstate 29, observing erratic driving behavior. Officers made an attempt to have Mr. Elliott come to a halt and meet with Altru Ambulance Staff at the North Washing Street exit to the City of Grand Forks, as there were concerns raised due to his apparent condition. Mr. Elliott declined to stop at the North Washington exit,” Jones reported.

What was Elliott’s “apparent condition”?

Who called the ambulance? What did dispatch tell the paramedics was the expected nature of the call and/or condition of the subject?

It is not reasonable to believe that Altru paramedics were told they were supposed to meet with a man that was upset and needed somebody to talk to out on the side of the road.

THE GAUNLET

The Affidavit submitted to the Court by the GFSO says “Officers followed David James Elliott without emergency lights activated on I-29”.

That means a lot.

It means that between Walsh County and the Washington Street exit in Grand Forks, no undue attention was being drawn to whatever was going on out on I-29.

Everything would have looked relatively normal.

But that abruptly CHANGED when Elliott reached Grand Forks, and the closer be got to Altru Hospital.

After Elliott refused to stop for the Altru ambulance on the outskirts of town, there were RED LIGHTS and GUNS everywhere.

One would never have imagined by the spectacle of red lights, armed officers with guns drawn, and police vehicles from four different agencies converging on this one man, that he had just committed the offense of refusing to receive roadside ambulance attention.

I (Timothy Charles Holmseth) personally witnessed David James Elliott stop his vehicle atop the Columbia Road Bridge, and I saw the GAUNTLET set out to stop Elliott from reaching the Emergency Room at Altru’s main hospital.

Jones said in his narrative that police approached Elliot’s vehicle with their firearms drawn. The actions of police show they were NOT going to allow him to reach the main hospital.

“A further attempt was made to bring him to a halt at the Gateway exit Interstate 29. On that occasion, North Dakota Highway Patrol Officer Peschong, Sgt. Schneider, and additional Highway Patrol, and Grand Forks Police Department officers made an attempt to get Mr. Elliott to stop and exit his vehicle. At least one Grand Forks Police Officer had drawn his service weapon at that time,” Jones reported.

Jones’ narrative describes Elliott’s continued frenzied trek through and around police vehicle where police officers were pointing guns at him and telling him to exit his vehicle.

DEPUTY NATHAN MOEN

GFSO Deputy Nathan Moen is named in the GFSO Affidavit of Probable Cause.

However, Jones’s narrative makes NO mention of GFSO Deputy Moen, whatsoever.

Deputy Moen is only mentioned ONCE in the GFSO affidavit and he is ONLY situated and located within the city limits of Grand Forks.

“David James Elliott did flee in motor vehicle from Sgt. Schneider and Deputy Moen when given a visual audible signal to stop by driving eastbound on Gateway Drive at a high rate of speed, continuing southbound on Columbia Rd and eventually turning into Altru parking lot where he struck Sgt. Schneider’s patrol vehicle in ahead-on collision,” the GFSO Affidavit of Probable Cause said.

How could Jones state that Sgt. Schneider and Trooper Peschong followed Elliott down I-29 without even mentioning Deputy Moen if Elliott fled “in a vehicle from Sgt. Schneider and Deputy Moen”?

Was Moen the actual/original operator of what is being described, for the official record, as “Sgt. Schneider’s patrol vehicle”?

AGITATED

“Mr. Elliott then brought his vehicle to a halt at the top of the Columbia Road overpass. North Dakota Highway Patrol Peschong and Grand Forks Police Department Officer Christopher Brown exited their vehicles with service weapons drawn, and issued commands for Mr. Elliott to stop the vehicle. UNDPD Officer Braaten also exited his vehicle and drew his service weapon. Mr. Elliott again made references to harming himself. He became agitated and proceed southbound on North Columbia Road at a high rate of speed, again risking harm to any individuals at or near the roadway,” Jones said.

Jones says Elliot brought his vehicle to a stop at the top of the Columbia Road overpass. Then, in the exact same sentence, Jones says two officers approached Elliott with their guns drawn and told him to stop the vehicle.

Does that make sense?

Officers told Elliott to stop the already stopped vehicle.

Jones then says Elliott “again made references to harming himself”.

Jones then says Elliott became “agitated”.

Jones then says Elliott “proceed southbound at a high rate of speed”.

On March 3, 2015, the Grand Forks Herald reported, “Jennifer [Elliott] said police were trying to get her husband to speak with her by phone so she could convince him to stop his pickup shortly before he was shot”.

But he DID stop his pickup. He then became AGITATED and took off again.

What AGITATED him?

Jones says David Elliott was making “references” to “harming himself”?

He was unarmed.

Jones refers to Elliott making reference to harming himself more than once in his letter but provides no meaningful evidence to support this utterly bizarre claim.

Would a reasonable person believe what Jones is saying?

Or…

Would a reasonable person believe David Elliott was making references to the POLICE that were POINTING GUNS at him HARMING HIM?

Or…

Did David Elliott recognize one or more the officers that were approaching him with guns drawn?

Look again at what Jones said in his narrative:

“UNDPD Officer Braaten also exited his vehicle and drew his service weapon. Mr. Elliott again made references to harming himself. He became agitated and proceed southbound on North Columbia Road at a high rate of speed.”

Did David Elliott recognize Jerad Braaten?

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