A Casselton man will not face murder charges in a shooting that turned deadly Friday night in the City of Casselton. Cass County State’s Attorney Birch Burdick made the announcement, along with Cass County Sheriff Jesse Jahner, in a press conference Tuesday afternoon.
“Having looked at the evidence we have available,” Burdick said. “We have 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.”
On Friday, William Dittmer, Jr., and his girlfriend returned home after a family supper in Fargo. Their route took them by Duane Turchin’s mobile home around the time some neighbors were having a bonfire. Dittmer has a vehicle with a loud straight-pipe exhaust system that has been an annoyance to some in the neighborhood. Upon information and belief, according to a document provided by the Cass County State’s Attorney’s Office, Turchin heard them drive by and “gave them the finger.”
To avoid a physical confrontation, Dittmer and his girlfriend continued driving past the mobile home and looped around the block. Upon returning back to his mobile home, the pair found Turchin standing in the roadway, a drink in his hand and Turchin yelling, “Hit me.” Dittmer and his girlfriend pulled into the parking spot, when Dittmer, a concealed weapons permit holder, unholstered his nine-millimeter and placed it in his lap. His girlfriend proceeded to the front door. Turchin approached the driver’s side window and Dittmer exited the vehicle, pistol in hand.
The victim, Turchin, threw his drink with his left hand, and choked Dittmer with his right hand. Dittmer’s girlfriend turned and witnessed Turchin’s hand around Dittmer’s throat, when, at which time, the gun was fired.
In closing, the State’s Attorney’s report decline stated, “A prosecution for murder requires sufficient evidence to disprove self-defense beyond a reasonable doubt. Under NDCC 12.1-05-07, use of force cannot be more “than is necessary and appropriate under the circumstances.” Deadly force is only justified when “necessary to protect the actor or anyone else against death, serious bodily injury, or the commission of a violent felony involving violence. The use of deadly force is not justified if it can be avoided, with safety to the actor and others, by retreat or other conduct involving minimal interference with the freedom of the individual menaced.”
It goes on to say that, when Mr. Turchin began to choke Mr. Dittmer with his hand on his throat, leaving marks, this legally qualifies as serious bodily injury and/or aggravated assault, a felony crime of violence. Mr. Dittmer was also pinned against his vehicle by Mr. Turchin and there was no safe avenue to retreat or escape.
“Under these circumstances, we are unable to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Dittmer's use of deadly force in self-defense was unjustified,” the state’s attorney’s office said. “As such, no charges will be filed at this time. Should additional information become available, please forward for further consideration.”