by April Scheinoha
A Pennington County District Court judge has denied a motion to dismiss an attempted murder charge for a 2015 shooting in rural Plummer.
Trevor Lee Brown, 23, has been charged with felony second degree attempted murder, felony first degree assault and felony reckless discharge of a firearm. Brown remains incarcerated at the Pennington County Jail.
Brown is accused of shooting Ryan Houle, 29, in the chest twice after arriving uninvited and armed at an Aug. 9 party at 13227 190th Ave. S.E. in Plummer. Houle underwent surgery in Fargo, N.D., for a collapsed lung and surgery on his hand. Houle has since been released from the hospital.
Brown fled the scene, allegedly throwing the Glock pistol out of the vehicle as he and three other men drove back to Thief River Falls. The gun hasn’t been recovered. Brown allegedly said he told Houle to not mess with him. Brown was arrested at a friend’s Goodridge home about 14 hours after the shooting.
In a court order filed Monday, March 7, Judge Kurt Marben denied a defense motion to dismiss the attempted murder charge for lack of probable cause. Brown’s attorney, Blair Nelson, argued there was insufficient evidence to prove that Brown intended to kill Houle. He argued there was no evidence of ill will and it was an instantaneous shooting.
Marben found there was sufficient evidence for the charge regarding intent, referring to Houle’s statement to law enforcement that Brown pointed the gun at him and pulled the trigger. Marben further wrote that jurors can also make that inference by Brown’s disposal of the gun and Brown’s alleged statement in the vehicle following the shooting.
Marben reserved the right to make a decision on a defense motion to allow testimony from an expert witness on unintentional discharges of firearms. He wrote that Brown contends his finger was in the trigger guard when the struggle occurred and Houle was wounded.
Marben wrote that a ruling can’t be made “without hearing the evidence, the foundation for the expert’s opinion and then determining if the expert’s opinion would be helpful to the jury.” He wrote that a prior court decision found average jurors understand that it’s possible for a firearm to unintentionally discharge during a struggle.
According to the complaint and the court order, the shooting occurred after a fight between two other men, including one who had arrived at the party with Brown. Houle was trying to break up the fight when Brown allegedly fired a shot into the ceiling. The two of them then struggled. The gun fired a second time, hitting Houle in the chest. A third shot was fired, and Houle was again hit in the chest.
Brown allegedly told law enforcement that he couldn’t remember the shooting. However, he thought he was on the ground and Houle was on top of him when the shooting occurred.
Houle allegedly told law enforcement that he tried to take the gun away from Brown. During that struggle, the gun went off and Houle was hit. Houle said that Brown then pointed the gun at him and pulled the trigger.
Witnesses differ as to what happened between the second and third shots. However, they agree that a struggle occurred.
Two witnesses told law enforcement that Houle tried to break up a fight. One witness said he heard the initial gunshot and then saw Brown with a gun in his hand. He said Houle and Brown struggled after the initial gunshot. He allegedly told law enforcement that he heard additional gunshots when Houle was grabbing the gun. At the time, he said, Houle was on top of Brown. He said Brown was leaning back in a booth at the time.
Houle’s sister also witnessed the incident. In his court order, Marben wrote that her account was hard to follow. She told law enforcement that her brother tackled Brown after the initial gunshot and she then heard two additional gunshots.