UPDATE: Grand Forks man sentenced for breaking into couple’s home, pointing gun at deputies

Joseph Espinoza
Joseph Espinoza(none)
Published: Feb. 27, 2022 at 4:52 PM CST|Updated: Dec. 5, 2022 at 8:48 PM CST
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GRAND FORKS, N.D. (Valley News Live) - A Grand Forks man will spend 15 years in prison after a laundry list of crimes that ended in two Grand Forks County deputies firing their weapons back in February.

38-year-old Joseph Espinoza was originally charged with robbery, burglary, attempted theft, theft, terrorizing, reckless endangerment, criminal mischief, reckless driving, driving under suspension and leaving the scene of an accident. Four of those charges were dropped.

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. on Feb 7. Officials say a caller reported the vehicle passed him on the shoulder of the road at approximately 90 mph just prior to the crash and also stated the suspect was fleeing on foot from the vehicle.

A short time later, deputies were told 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.

Officials say the vehicle Espinoza crashed prior to the break-in had just been stolen from Grand Forks.

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.

Grand Forks County 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.

On March 23, the Grand Forks 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.

Espinoza will receive credit for time already served and once released, he will be placed on supervised probation for three years.

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