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Shooting leaves four dead on ND reservation


NEW TOWN, N.D. -- The 911 call came at 3:17 p.m. Sunday from a boy who told Mountrail County dispatchers that a man had come into his home and shot his family. The boy hung up before dispatchers could get more information, but the call was traced to a house in New Town in western North Dakota.

There authorities found four victims, a woman and three of her grandchildren, identified by the Mountrail County Sheriff's Office as Martha Johnson, 64; Ben Schuster, 13; Julia Schuster, 10; and Luke Schuster, 6.

Neighbors said the 12-year-old boy who called 911, also Johnson's grandchild, survived by playing dead, which New Town Police Chief Arthur Walgren confirmed.

About 7 p.m. Sunday, law enforcement learned a man had made statements about the crime.

While investigators were questioning him in Parshall, about 17 miles east of New Town, he killed himself with a knife, according to Sheriff Ken Halvorson.

Johnson was caring for five grandchildren, according to friends and neighbors.

The fifth grandchild was not home at the time, Walgren said. Her husband, Harley, also was not home at the time.

The FBI, aided by the state Bureau of Criminal Investigation and the Bureau of Indian Affairs, is leading the investigation with Halvorson, FBI spokesman Kyle Loven, said. The FBI has taken the lead largely because New Town and Parshall are on an Indian reservation, Loven said.

"Right now we are the lead agency, working in concert with the BCI and the BIA," Loven said. "It really is a joint investigation."

Any serious crime on an Indian reservation typically can involve the FBI's jurisdiction, he said.

The suspect was an enrolled member of the Three Affiliated Tribes, the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara, that live on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation.

Authorities did not release the name of the suspect, but several sources including law enforcement and tribal members confirmed he's the son of a former tribal member.

Tex Hall, chairman of the Three Affiliated Tribes, expressed condolences Monday night for the family of former tribal member Scott Eagle during a prayer service and call to action.

Walgren said he doesn't believe there is any connection between the suspect and Johnson, other than he may have been a casual acquaintance.

The shooting left residents of both towns shaken.

Some New Town residents left town after reports of the shootings, and many offices were closed Monday, Walgren said. A woman who lives across the street from the Johnsons was loading clothes into her car Monday and declined to comment.

New Town Superintendent Marc Bluestone said he made the decision to call off classes about 9 p.m. Sunday because he hadn't received confirmation from police that there was no longer a safety risk.

Classes will resume today and counselors, social workers and clergy will be available to assist students and staff. Today is the last day of class before Thanksgiving break.

All five of Johnson's grandchildren were enrolled in the district, ranging in age from first through eighth grades, Bluestone said. They began attending school in New Town in late September, Bluestone said.