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Police: Man who allegedly fired shots into Valley City businesses had been in altercation with employees

VALLEY CITY, N.D. - A man who allegedly fired shots into two businesses here and died a short time later after crashing his vehicle near Baldhill Dam on Tuesday had been involved in an altercation with employees at one of the businesses, a police detective said today.

Valley City Detective Mark McDonald said police believe the man, whose name has not been released, fired three shots into the Brothers III convenience store and a single shot into the Dakota Silver liquor store across the street. Both businesses are owned by the same family.

"I can verify that there was an altercation earlier in regard to the employees at Dakota Silver and the suspect," McDonald said.

McDonald wouldn't comment on what led to the altercation or whether any bullets were recovered, citing the ongoing investigation.

The man's body has been sent to Bismarck for an autopsy to determine the cause and manner of death, Barnes County Sheriff Randy McClaflin said.

Shortly after 5 p.m. Tuesday, Jim Peterson, co-owner of Brothers III at 507 E. Main St., was handing change to a customer when he felt something whiz by about 3 feet above his head.

He had heard what he thought was a firecracker in the building when a customer said someone was shooting at the business, he said.

"It only happened in seconds," he said Tuesday night.

A witness down the street saw the man pull out a rifle from his pickup and begin to shoot at the store.

McDonald said no one was injured or hit by bullet fragments in the shooting.

Peterson and his brother, co-owner Ron Peterson, were inside the convenience store at the time of the incident. Jim Peterson said the store was full, with about a dozen people inside and others outside at the gas pumps.

"It's amazing somebody didn't get hit," he said.

Peterson said a Dakota Silver employee had just turned to run a credit card about a "tenth of a second" before the shot rang though the building and directly into where the employee had stood.

"If he would have been able to shoot lower, somebody would have been shot," Peterson said. "We can't find any bullets, but we know the bullets are there. They came through the walls."

The man, said to be in his 20s, did not leave his vehicle and sped out of town.

About a half-hour later, a vehicle accident was reported near Baldhill Dam about nine miles north of the city. The man had crashed his Dodge pickup into a utility pole, McClaflin said.

A rifle, believed to be the one used in the shooting, was recovered from the vehicle, he said.

Rescue crews found the man dead at the scene of the crash and connected the two incidents a short time later.

Peterson said he knows the man's name but not why he would shoot at the two businesses.

The man has no relation to the family and was not a former employee of either business.

Jennifer Peterson, co-owner of the businesses, said the suspect had been a problem at the liquor store before, being caught shoplifting and being refused service as store staff believed him to be intoxicated.

As of Wednesday morning, McDonald could not confirm the identity of the suspect, a motive for the shooting, the caliber of rifle used or the cause of the suspect's death.