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Dave Roepke, Published December 22 2009

Moorhead officials address criticism of investigation

Prosecutors and Moorhead police on Monday took special care to address criticisms of the Joel LaFromboise investigation head-on, saying race didn’t play a factor and the delay in releasing details of the shooting was proper.

The family of LaFromboise, a 17-year-old Moorhead boy who was shot dead when he entered a stranger’s home shortly after midnight in June, are convinced that if a Native American had pulled the trigger instead of taken the shot, he would be in jail.

Officials strenuously objected to that.

“I can tell you, this case had nothing to do with race,” said Clay County Attorney Brian Melton.

Moorhead Police Chief David Ebinger said it was “offensive and disturbing” to think race made a difference in the investigation.

Ralph LaFromboise, the father of Joel, said he still feels race played a role in the decision to not charge the man who shot his son.

Melton specifically refuted an editorial in The Forum suggesting the six-month investigation was purposely slowed. He said a thorough examination was needed and is better than being “quick and sloppy.”

“I’m OK with being called slow and deliberate,” he said.

Melton and Ebinger said delays at the state’s crime labs were to be expected because no one was being held in connection with the shooting. Cases that already are on a court docket are given higher priority, they said.

“In this instance, we didn’t have a clock ticking,” Ebinger said.

As for the original decision to release the shooter, Vernon Allen, Melton said he made the call, and it was based on the evidence. The shooting met the state’s definition of a justifiable killing in cases of defending one’s home or life.

Charges could have been filed if Allen’s story didn’t match physical evidence, Ebinger said. That meant the investigation was still open and lab results and other details could not be released until the book was closed on the case.


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