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Published October 28 2012

Man charged in 100-mph chase near Grand Forks explains why

GRAND FORKS - The Belcourt man accused of leading law enforcement on a dangerous 40-mile, high-speed chase west of Grand Forks Thursday told a judge he was just trying to get “back to the rez,” to resume his interrupted high school studies.

A Grand Forks judge set bail at $7,500 Friday for Sheldon Lee Demery, 19, during his initial appearance — via interactive television from the Grand Forks County jail — in state district court on five charges.

Demery is charged with theft of a car and of fleeing police, each felony punishable by up to five years in prison.

He also was charged with three misdemeanors: reckless driving, criminal mischief and driving with a suspended license.

His preliminary hearing was set for Jan. 2.

In asking for the relatively high bond amount, Assistant State’s Attorney Haley Wamstad said Demery put the public in danger by how he drove, running through stop signs and nearly colliding with other vehicles.

Deputies said in his attempts to get out of a field and back on U.S. Highway 2, Demery at times drove “head-on” toward law enforcement vehicles.

Demery told state District Judge Karen Braaten he has not been working but was going “back to the rez” to finish his last two years of high school, except he got interrupted by “being incarcerated.”

If school was his goal, Demery, described in court documents as an American Indian, is one eager pupil.

Sheriff’s deputies say he led them on a chase starting 3 miles south of Grand Forks, ending 40 miles west of the city at speeds “nearing 100 mph,” according to a court affidavit.

Tribal headquarters for the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewas is in Belcourt, which is about 170 miles northwest of Grand Forks.

It began when Cpl. Andy Schneider of the sheriff’s department, on routine “drug interdiction,” noticed a 2003 Chevy Impala with “excessive” tinting of the front windows heading north on Interstate 29 just before 5 p.m. Thursday.

On a license plate check, the car turned up as reported stolen in Fargo.

During his appearance Friday, Demery questioned why he was charged with theft, indicating he apparently didn’t view his use of the car as unauthorized.

Deputies said after driving west on DeMers Avenue, through a stop sign on to the gravel county road, then north on gravel roads to U.S. Highway 2, Demery detoured through fields and yards near the airport, then somehow back to Highway 2.

They said Demery drove through the yards of at least three rural residents near the airport, causing up to $2,000 damage in each place. The Impala’s hot catalytic converter started a fire in a field, which was quickly extinguished by a deputy.

One mile east of Niagara, about 40 miles west of Grand Forks, Demery again took to a county road, then to another farm field, where he got stuck and was arrested.

He did at least $500 damage to the car and it cost $310 to tow the car out of the field into storage, deputies said.

From eight to 10 law enforcement vehicles were in on the chase, including sheriff’s deputies, state Highway Patrol troopers and a U.S. Border Patrol helicopter.