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Published April 02 2012

Man sentenced to 3 years in cornfield standoff near Argusville

FARGO – A 22-year-old man who led authorities on a high-speed chase followed by an 11-hour manhunt in a cornfield near Argusville last fall was sentenced Monday to three years in prison.

Dylan Thomas Pederson said in Cass County District Court that at the time of the incident, he hated himself for his homelessness and addiction and didn’t intend to hurt anyone but himself.

Reading from a prepared statement, Pederson apologized for his actions, saying he embarrassed everyone around him and went “way too far.”

Pederson, who said he’s been nicknamed “cornfield” by other inmates at the Cass County Jail, said he hopes to someday rid himself of the nickname, turn his life around and not be remembered as the guy who hid in a cornfield “whacked out on drugs.”

The sentence ordered by Judge Steven McCullough followed the recommendation of Assistant Cass County State’s Attorney Ryan Younggren, who said Pederson created “significant danger” through his actions on Sept. 28.

At about 7:30 a.m. that day, Pederson was driving with his girlfriend on Interstate 29 north of Fargo when they started arguing and he began weaving between orange cones in a construction zone, saying he should kill them both, Younggren said.

Pederson eventually stopped the vehicle, and as his girlfriend attempted to flee, he grabbed her and handed her a black pistol and told her to shoot him, Younggren said.

When a passer-by stopped to help the woman, Pederson took off and led North Dakota Highway Patrol officers on a chase that reached speeds of up to 110 mph. It ended when Pederson turned off U.S. Highway 81, drove across the railroad tracks and all four lanes of I-29 and crashed into a field west of the interstate, Younggren said.

Younggren noted the chase occurred during morning rush hour.

“There is grave danger for anyone that would’ve been on that road,” he said of I-29.

Pederson fled into the cornfield, triggering a roughly 11-hour manhunt that involved two helicopters, an airplane and more than 50 people.

His attorney, Monty Mertz, said Pederson was suicidal at the time of incident, noting he shot himself in the stomach multiple times with what turned out to be a black pellet gun. Mertz said Pederson has depression, anxiety and substance addiction and is “extremely immature” for his age.

Pederson pleaded guilty in January to felony charges of terrorizing, reckless endangerment, fleeing police and preventing arrest.

McCullough recommended Pederson be placed in a Department of Corrections treatment unit. In addition to prison time, Pederson also must serve five years of supervised probation, pay a restitution amount yet to be determined and have no contact with the victim. He received credit for 187 days served in jail.

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Readers can reach Forum reporter Mike Nowatzki at (701) 241-5528