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Published December 27 2009

Forum editorial: Shooting a tragedy, not crime

Whatever happened in Vernon Allen’s Romkey Park apartment in Moorhead on June 20 will never be completely aired. But from all of the evidence made public, the shooting death of 17-year-old Joel LaFromboise was a tragedy, not a crime.

Ending an investigation that took six months to conclude, Clay County prosecutors and Moorhead police announced last week that they will not press criminal charges against Allen, who they determined was acting in self-defense when he shot LaFromboise as the two struggled for control of Allen’s shotgun.

Forensic tests, including an autopsy and ballistics report, partly corroborated Allen’s statement that he was defending himself against a home invader. We don’t know LaFromboise’s intentions for entering Allen’s apartment late at night, but we know his judgment was seriously impaired, with a blood-alcohol concentration more than twice the legal limit for driving in Minnesota.

Allen’s unlocked apartment was one of four entered that night by LaFromboise, according to officials, and police believe he broke into three nearby homes on two successive nights before his fatal encounter in Allen’s apartment. This is a sad case on multiple levels, and the community mourns the tragic death of this young man, but it is a case in which criminal justice officials appear amply justified in determining that it involved no crime on Allen’s part.

Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board