Casselton shooter won’t be charged, prosecutor says he acted in self defense

FARGO, N.D. — Last Friday, Cass County deputies responded to a report of a gunshot at Harness Mobile Home Court in Casselton, ND.

“The suspect, identified as William Dittmer Jr. called 911 and explained that there was an argument and physical altercation at his address outside near his vehicle between he and the victim, identified as Duane Turchin,” said Cass County Sheriff Jesse Jahner.

During the disagreement, Dittmer fatally shot his neighbor and was subsequently charged with murder and taken into custody by the Cass County Sheriff’s Office.

Dittmer claims the shooting was an act of self-defense.

“Mr. Turchin was a considerably larger man. He had presented himself as a challenge to Mr. Dittmer,” explained State’s Attorney Birch Burdick. “He was present on Mr. Dittmer’s property and challenging him right there at his car. The evidence indicated that when Mr. Dittmer got out of his car, Mr. Turchin put his hand around his throat and was squeezing his throat.”

The evidence includes Sheriff’s Office photographs that show a spilled drink on the drivers side window of the vehicle, which Dittmer Jr. said was thrown at him. Photographs also show faint, red scratch marks on Dittmer’s neck. This was corroborated by Dittmer’s girlfriend, Adrienne Johnson, who saw the altercation from inside the couple’s home.

Upon review of the evidence, the State’s Attorney office made the decision not to prosecute Dittmer and he was released from custody three days after he was initially charged.

“We had concluded that we would not be in a position to disprove self defense beyond a reasonable doubt, which is what we would need to be able to do,” said Burdick. “For that reason, we have declined to charge Mr. Dittmer on this case.”

Burdick says Turchin’s actions of having his hand around Dittmer’s throat and pinning Dittmer against the vehicle legally qualify as serious bodily injury and/or aggravated assault and therefore, they are unable to prove that Dittmer’s use of deadly force in self-defense was unjustified.

Categories: North Dakota News