UPDATE: Deputies actions ‘justified’ in Grand Forks officer-involved shooting

Joseph Espinoza
Joseph Espinoza(none)
Published: Feb. 27, 2022 at 4:52 PM CST|Updated: Feb. 28, 2022 at 1:09 PM CST
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GRAND FORKS, N.D. (Valley News Live) -

UPDATE 3/23: The States Attorney’s Office says, after a thorough review of the facts and law, the actions of the deputies on scene were objectively reasonable and justified.

In their opinion, the States Attorney’s Office states: “When Corporal Brandon Rakoczy and Deputy Dustin Wadholm arrived on scene, they were immediately warned by the homeowner that the suspect had a gun. Deputies gave Joseph Espinoza numerous commands to drop the gun and he refused to comply with their commands. The deputies had retreated several yards back to their squad car. Espinoza continued to approach the deputies and pointed his firearm at deputies, which led to both deputies firing their duty weapons at Espinoza. Espinoza was shot in his left leg. Joseph Espinoza was subsequently apprehended and charged with the crimes of Theft of Property, Robbery, Burglary, Attempted Theft of Property, Theft of a Firearm, Terrorizing, Reckless Endangerment, Criminal Mischief, Reckless Driving, Driving Under Suspension, and Leaving the Scene of an Accident for the incident on February 27, 2022. Mr. Espinoza’s charges are pending and he remains in the Grand Forks County Correctional Center at this time. A defendant is presumed innocent of all charges until proven guilty by proof beyond a reasonable doubt.”

UPDATE 3/3: Bond was set Thursday at $300,000 cash or surety for 37-year-old Joseph Espinoza. He faces 11 charges including 8 felonies. His preliminary hearing will be April 8th.

ORIGINAL STORY: The names of the three men involved in a bizarre and scary situation have been released after several shots were fired both inside and outside a Grand Forks County home Sunday.

The Grand Forks Sheriff’s Office was called to a car that crashed in the ditch in the 800 block of County Highway 81 just before 11:30 a.m. Officials say a caller reported the vehicle passed him on the shoulder of the road at approximately 90 miles per hour just prior to the crash and also stated the suspect was fleeing on foot from the vehicle. Officials say the vehicle Espinoza crashed prior to the break-in had just been stolen from Grand Forks.

A short time later, deputies were told 37-year-old Joseph Martin Espinoza smashed out a large window and broke into a home at 877 10th St. NE. A man and woman were inside the home at the time of the break-in and the homeowner told dispatch they were going to get a gun. Officials say it was later learned the homeowner fired rounds inside the home to get Espinoza out. A struggle ensued over the gun and Espinoza eventually took the gun and fired several shots inside the home as well.

The male homeowner received minor injuries including a cut to his hand during the invasion, and officials say the woman was also struck in the face by Espinoza.

Deputies Rakoczy and Wadholm arrived on scene as Espinoza was in the process of stealing the homeowner’s pickup. Officials say the female homeowner was outside by the pickup and yelled to deputies that Espinoza had a gun. The woman ran back into her home and deputies retreated for a position of cover.

Officials say deputies gave commands for Espinoza to show his hands and to drop the gun. Espinoza walked down the driveway toward deputies with the gun in his hand as officials say the deputies continued to command him to drop it. Espinoza transferred the gun to his opposite hand and pointed the weapon in the direction of the deputies when the deputies fired at Espinoza which struck him in the upper left leg. Deputies rendered aid to Espinoza for the gunshot wound and other injuries he sustained while breaking into the home, including applying a tourniquet to his injured leg.

Espinoza was transported to Altru by ambulance where he is still being treated for non-life threatening injuries. Charges have not yet been filed against Espinoza.

The North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) is reviewing the officer-involved shooting.

Corporal Brandon Rakoczy has been a deputy with the Sheriff’s Office since 2010. He was promoted to Corporal in 2019. Deputy Dustin Wadholm has been employed with the Sheriff’s Office for two months. He is currently in field training and assigned to training officer Cpl Rakoczy. Both deputies are on standard, paid-administrative leave.

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