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Stephen J. Lee, Forum News Service, Published February 19 2014

Prosecutor: Deadly shots in Belcourt were fired in self-defense

BELCOURT, N.D. - Nobody will be charged with homicide in the Nov. 27 shooting death at the Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation, U.S. Attorney for North Dakota Tim Purdon said Wednesday.

Joel Sherman, 29, of Belcourt, was killed by gunfire at a Belcourt home, sparking a lockdown at area schools and a search for two men.

But the federal investigation found that Sherman had threatened another man, entered the home and fired more than once before Justin Keplin, 31, shot back, killing him, Purdon said.

In December, William Marcellais, chief prosecutor for the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa, charged Keplin with reckless endangerment and assault leading to death in the shooting. Keplin is the only person alleged to have shot back at Sherman, Marcellais said.

Those charges are the most serious that can be brought by tribal court.

Marcellais said Wednesday that Keplin pleaded not guilty, is out on bail and the case against him is pending.

Keplin and his brother were the two men searched for in the first days after Sherman was killed. The brother was not charged in the incident.

Federal prosecutors investigate homicides on Indian reservations.

Asked if other charges were possible, Purdon declined to comment.

He said his office is committed to ensuring public safety on Indian reservations in the state, including doing a thorough investigation into what led up to Sherman’s shooting death.