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Homeland Security officer charged

One victim identified

Daniel Breijo

A Homeland Security officer has been charged with Class AA felony murder and Class A felony attempted murder after a shooting on Christmas Eve left one man dead and a woman in critical condition.

Minot police have identified the deceased victim as Nicholas Van Pelt, 41, Minot.

Daniel Breijo, 39, Surrey, was arrested in relation to the incident and made his initial appearance before District Judge Gary Lee on Tuesday. Every courtroom bench was filled Tuesday by the victim’s family, friends, law enforcement and court personnel standing in the aisles and wings.

Lee said at the beginning of the hearing that all of the district’s judges would be recusing themselves from the case due to their familiarity with the alleged victims. Lee said a judge from outside the district would be assigned to the case and noted the victims had active roles in local court and law enforcement communities.

Deputy State’s Attorney Tiffany Sorgen said that the county’s prosecutors would also be recusing themselves from the case after the hearing for much the same reasons, including that she and her office had familiarity with Breijo himself in his capacity as a Homeland Security officer.

According to court documents, Minot police officers were called to a southwest Minot apartment complex after receiving reports of a shooting shortly before 9 p.m. on Sunday. Six shots were reported by a neighbor, who called in the shooting, and two further shots were audible during the call. Officers arrived on the scene on the fourth floor of the building to the sound of a woman screaming for help. Officers began speaking with the female victim and forced entry into the apartment.

The affidavit of probable cause said officers found Van Pelt in a hallway near the front door. The female victim was found lying in the laundry room, while Breijo was found in a bathroom. Breijo was observed on his knees with his hands in the air and a black handgun on the ground next to him.

The male victim was pronounced dead at the scene, and the female victim is currently receiving treatment for serious injuries in the intensive care unit at Trinity Hospital, according to Sorgen. Breijo was arrested and held in custody at the Ward County Jail.

Sorgen battled her emotions while making the state’s bond recommendations, acknowledging Breijo’s lack of criminal history but highlighting the seriousness of the alleged crime. She noted Breijo had been belligerent while in custody and had assaulted a correctional officer, resulting in a third Class C felony charge. Sorgen requested a bond of $5 million cash or corporate surety.

“There are children that have been left without a father, and other children whose mother has been in the hospital for Christmas day. Nevermind that there are numerous members of our community who are absolutely rocked by this matter and who might be in danger due to Mr. Breijo’s actions,” Sorgen said.

Breijo’s attorney, Jesse Walstad of Bismarck, appeared virtually for the hearing and made the case that such a bond was inappropriate given his client’s lack of criminal history and established ties in the community. Walstad further stated his client had voluntarily allowed himself to be taken into custody.

Lee said a substantial bond was required given the nature of the charges in the case. He ordered a cash bond of $2 million, calling the requested $5 million “unattainable.”

“I’ve reviewed the affidavit of probable cause. He was in the apartment where the alleged crime took place armed with a pistol when law enforcement arrived. Absent a shootout at the O.K. Corral, surrendering was his only option. As a federal law enforcement officer, he’s expected to behave far more responsibly than all of the others,” Lee said.

Lee and Sorgen also discussed a no-contact order, which will be expanded to include the family and children of the victims shortly after the holidays. Further court dates were scheduled by Lee for the sake of advancing the case, as he noted they were likely to be rescheduled to accommodate the outside judge and special prosecutor to be assigned by the North Dakota Supreme Court. A Marsy’s Law declaration has been made, and the female victim’s name is being withheld.

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