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Fargo man involved in armed standoff enters not guilty plea

Leonard Ritter appears Thursday in Cass County District Court to enter pleas to five felony charges. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

The man suspected in a nine-hour standoff with Fargo police in July pleaded not guilty in Cass County District Court on Thursday to the felonies he faces in connection with the incident.

The attorney for Leonard Ritter, the man arrested after the July 8 standoff, said after the hearing that a mental evaluation of his client will determine only his mindset at the time of the incident, not his existing mental competency.

Steven Mottinger, who is representing Ritter, said it is obvious that his client was suffering from an illness or other debilitation when he was arrested outside of his apartment complex on 20th Avenue South.

But Ritter is plenty capable of assisting in his own defense, the standard to be met for defendants to stand trial, Mottinger said.

He said Ritter's next legal move depends on the results of the evaluation, but it could be arguing Ritter isn't responsible for his actions due to his mental state at the time.

The impasse ended when Ritter jumped off his balcony and police stunned him with a Taser. After his arrest, he said authorities didn't have cause to hold him and asked for a taxi ride back home, court documents state.

Police first came to the home of the 55-year-old on a report of a man brandishing a shotgun in the hall. At one point in the standoff, police say, Ritter fired a handgun eight times at a SWAT robot used for negotiating, flattening a tire.

Ritter actually prompted the formation of a SWAT in Fargo-Moorhead when he had a two-hour standoff with police in 1994.

He is charged in Cass County District Court with two counts of terrorizing and one count each of possessing a firearm as a felon, preventing arrest or discharge of duties and reckless endangerment.

All five charges, Class C felonies, carry a maximum prison term of five years. Ritter is being held in the Cass County Jail on $100,000 bail.

To allow more time for the mental evaluation to be completed, the next hearing for Ritter was pushed back eight weeks instead of the usual four. His next court date is Nov. 18.