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Dave Roepke, Published June 23 2009

Moorhead fatal shooting: What would you do?

She grew up here but lived for eight years in Brooklyn, so Megan Bartholomay bolts her doors out of habit.

“I lock everything, every time,” said the 32-year-old, who now lives in Fargo.

Rudy Sandeen grew up in Aneta, N.D., a city of a few hundred, so he rarely locks up. If an intruder did come into his home, Sandeen, a 60-year-old hunter, is “99.9 percent sure” he wouldn’t reach for a gun.

“He’d have to be pretty cotton-picking strange for me to shoot somebody,” he said.

The conflicting mindsets have emerged in reactions to the death of Joel LaFromboise, the 17-year-old shot Saturday shortly after midnight when he entered Vernon Allen’s apartment in Moorhead.

Allen, 47, was arrested for the shooting Saturday and released later that day. Authorities said they don’t plan to charge him with a crime at this time.

The incident bothers the likes of Sandeen, who does not understand how Allen could have shot the teen.

Bartholomay and others, like Robert Smith, 58, a Fargo retiree born in Connecticut, see it as a tragic but justified killing.

“It’s too bad it happened – young age, 17 – but I don’t think he had any other choice,” Smith said. “You don’t go into somebody’s apartment like that.”

That was also the take of Shannon Hilfer, 38, of Bismarck. She can easily see how the shooting could happen.

“I would do the same thing. You don’t know, and you have a right to protect yourself,” Hilfer said.

Though LaFromboise turned out to be unarmed, there was no way Allen could know if LaFromboise had a weapon or what his intent was, said Mike Berreth, 32, of Fargo.

“I don’t have a problem with it. If you step into my house, it’s my house,” he said.

The questions of whether to shoot a trespasser or to leave the door open in the first place get at similar issues: the division between the sense of trust and community in a small town and the concern for security a big city requires.

Take Lois Edward, who lives in rural White Earth, Minn. She said she’s more likely to hit an intruder than shoot him, but whether the door would be unlocked, as Allen’s was, might depend on where she lived.

“Sometimes I lock them, sometimes I don’t,” she said of her rural house. “I probably would in town just because there are so many people.”

That’s how it is for Rachel Nicolai, 19, of Fargo. She grew up in Moorhead and wouldn’t think to lock her apartment door if it were not for her roommate, a Minneapolis native.

Smith thinks the trustful nature of people who keep their house unlocked or the keys in their vehicles is “backward,” a relic of an era long since past.

“I’d lock my door if I was in the middle of a desert,” he said.

Bartholomay said it’s just a smart move that has little to do with trust.

“It’s not really because I don’t believe in the good of people,” she said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Roepke at (701) 241-5535