Case of man accused of shooting officers outside Fargo Hotel goes to jury
Starting Monday morning, jurors will begin to reflect on the charges of attempted murder, aggravated assault, terrorism and reckless endangerment that have been laid against Henry Aiken, 55, following a shooting on November 15, 2019 at the Radisson Hotel.
In closing trial arguments presented on Friday afternoon, prosecutor Renata Selzer told jurors that evidence presented during the nearly week-long trial showed that when Officer Joseph Vegel and a Staff Sgt. police responded to the hotel about a man with a gun, they met Aiken, who pointed a gun at Vegel and fired.
Selzer said the evidence also shows that Aiken fired two bullets into a hotel window before entering the hotel lobby through the destroyed window.
The evidence, she said, included testimony from Vegel, two bullet fragments recovered from the remains of the hotel window and a revolver recovered from the hotel lobby that contained three exhausted shells and two shells. not exhausted.
“He (Aiken) had the mentality of putting other people in danger,” Selzer told jurors, saying that when Aiken shot in the hotel lobby “he didn’t care who was in their way. bullets “.
In an unusual move in a case involving such serious charges, Aiken acted as his own lawyer during the trial.
Aiken claimed he did not shoot police during the incident, but admitted firing two shots at the base of a double-glazed hotel window.
“I did not shoot any officer,” Aiken told jurors in his final argument, stating that one of the three worn shells found in the weapon was the result of a bullet he fired at the back seat of his vehicle before the incident at the hotel.
This claim was disputed by Selzer, who said a search of Aiken’s vehicle did not reveal any bullet holes.
Fargo Police Chief Detective Josh Loos, the agent responsible for the incident, said on Friday authorities believed Aiken fired a shot at Constable Vegel at around 4:06 a.m. the incident at the hotel.
Loos said this shot was followed shortly after by an accidental shot fired by Sgt. Matt Ysteboe, who Loos said was followed by two shots that Aiken fired into the hotel window – for a total of four shots.
Aiken maintained that the shot reported at 4:06 a.m. was the first shot he fired in the hotel window and during his cross-examination of Loos’ testimony, Aiken sought to cast doubt on the version of the detective’s events by playing video recorded inside a police car that responded at the scene of the incident around 4 a.m.
While the police car was still on its way to the scene, Constable Vegel’s 4:06 am radio transmission of a gunshot can be heard on video.
At around 4:07 am, a loud shot can be heard on the video, followed quickly by a weaker shot; meaning the video appeared to capture actual references or sounds from just three shots throughout the duration of the incident.
Loos said the loud bang heard at 4:07 a.m. was the sergeant’s accidental discharge. Ysteboe’s weapon, while the softer blow that followed was the second shot Aiken fired through the hotel window.
During cross-examination by Aiken, Loos said he could not explain why the first shot he claims to have fired at the hotel window was not captured by the car recording police force, although during the interrogation of Selzer Loos, the double-action trigger mechanism of the revolver was authorized. rapid fire of the weapon.
Aside from the sergeant. Ysteboe, who injured his hand when his gun was accidentally discharged, no one else was injured in the incident at the hotel, which lasted less than 20 minutes and ended when Aiken went to the police in the hotel lobby.
During his final argument, Aiken told jurors he fought the attempted murder and aggravated assault charges “because I know I didn’t,” adding that he believed that the charges were irrelevant to a similar case in which he said a defendant had a “slap in the face” after firing a gun in a public space.
It was an apparent reference to a recent case in Fargo involving a pawnshop employee who was charged with a misdemeanor after firing a gun at a fleeing suspect during a robbery. at gunpoint.
After closing arguments on Friday, Judge John Irby told jurors they were due to return on Monday to begin deliberations.
During the trial, it was not clarified what motivated Aiken to take the measures he took at the hotel, but video footage of Aiken throwing himself violently into the back of a vehicle police after his arrest hinted that he was suffering from mental distress.
When Aiken attempted to present evidence at trial showing that he had visited a clinic for mental health issues before the shooting, Judge Irby reminded Aiken that he had chosen not to bring up the illness. mental as possible defense.
Repeatedly during his trial, Aiken told jurors he would admit some wrongdoing, but not the most serious charges, including attempted murder, which usually carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. .
Aiken had previously provided the Forum with court documents indicating that if found guilty, prosecutors intended to seek a life sentence.
During a break in his trial on Wednesday, Aiken pleaded guilty to a Class C felony charge of being a felony in possession of a firearm, which stemmed from his convictions in Williams County, Dakota of the North, for reckless endangerment and terrorism.
The charges were related to an incident in Williston in 2015 where Aiken shot a gun at a nursing home.