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Stephen J. Lee, Grand Forks Herald , Published June 19 2012

Grand Forks man charged with shooting roommate claims self-defense

GRAND FORKS - Travis Samshal was defending himself against a threatening roommate when he fired a hunting rifle inside his south Grand Forks apartment in December, said his attorney Tuesday.

Samshal, 26, pleaded not guilty to attempted murder in state district court in Grand Forks.

State District Judge Deb Kleven scheduled a trial for Aug. 16 for Samshal to face the Class A felony charge that carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.

Samshal, who gives an address now in Red Lake Falls, Minn., was living with Leon Franco, 34, on Dec. 14 when an altercation about 3 a.m. led to Samshal going into his bedroom and slamming the door, telling Franco to stay out and that he was going to load his rifle, according to the investigators’ reports.

Franco advanced and Samshal fired a 7-mm round from a Ruger scoped hunting rifle in Franco’s direction. The bullet “passed over (Franco’s) right shoulder, passing within inches of his head,” according to the reports.

Grand Forks County prosecutors initially charged Samshal with reckless endangerment, a Class C felony, and a misdemeanor charge of firing a gun within city limits. After further investigation, the attempted murder charge was added.

Samshal and Franco lived in an apartment in the 2600 block of South 17th Street in Grand Forks and had a history of conflict, said Samshal’s attorney, Blake Hankey.

“He was backed into a corner in his room and Mr. Franco kept repeatedly going into his bedroom,” Hankey said after Tuesday’s hearing. “It was an act of self defense. There had been previous physical altercations between these two men. My client was threatened.”

Samshal had retreated into his bedroom, closed the door and told Franco to stay out but Franco again opened the door and advanced. Samshal fired a shot taking care not to hit Franco, according to Hankey.

Samshal, the leaseholder on the apartment, also had the right to defend his property against Franco and that will be argued at trial, Hankey said.

His client worked at Cabela’s in East Grand Forks at the time and hunts a lot, which is why he had several firearms, ammo and bows, as did Franco. Police seized several weapons and boxes of bullets and shotgun shells.

The charge of reckless endangerment involving the discharge of a firearm carries a mandatory minimum sentence of two years in prison, Judge Kleven explained to Samshal.

A third charge, a misdemeanor count of discharging a firearm within city limits, has been moved from city court to state district court to be handled with the two more serious charges.

Samshal told Judge Kleven he had taken in-patient and out-patient alcohol and drug treatment, continues in counseling and is working at a Grand Forks manufacturing company.