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Bismarck officer-involved shooting found to be justified

Donald Miller

BISMARCK — Two months after an officer-involved shooting in Bismarck, Burleigh County State's Attorney Richard Riha has found the shooting was justified.

Riha wrote Thursday, Dec. 21, to Bismarck Police Chief Dan Donlin that upon review of motel surveillance and police vehicle videos, "the videos leave no doubt that the officer acted appropriately."

Suspected attacker Donald Miller approached Bismarck Police officer Justin Antonovich in his patrol vehicle on Oct. 15 at the Bismarck Motor Motel, where Antonovich had arrived on an unrelated call.

Riha's letter said Miller tried to take the patrol car while striking Antonovich and gouging his eyes. Antonovich attempted to fight back and use his Taser to stop the attack, but it was ineffective.

He then drew his firearm and hit Miller in the abdomen with one shot. Both men were taken to hospitals for treatment.

A return to duty

Donlin said Antonovich has returned to regular patrol duties as of Wednesday, Dec. 27. He also has healed from his injuries that day, which included a serious eye injury.

"It's not an easy thing to go through," Donlin said of the shooting. "No officer wants to use deadly force, ever, in their career."

The North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation conducted a probe into the shooting.

Donlin said a deadly force review board of Bismarck police will now conduct a review of the shooting for internal and training purposes.

That board will be comprised of about five officers, including one representative selected by the officer involved in the shooting.

Miller, 51, is being held pending $150,000 cash bond at the Burleigh-Morton County Detention Center, facing felony charges of robbery with serious bodily injury and simple assault on a peace officer.

His preliminary hearing is set for Jan. 22, rescheduled for a psychiatric evaluation to take place.

Marsy's Law clarified

After the shooting, Bismarck Police Sgt. Mark Buschena declined to confirm the officer's identity after The Bismarck Tribune identified Antonovich through a court order and a peace officer roster.

"It is our policy not to release the name of an officer involved in a shooting until the investigation is complete, the same way we don't release any other person's name in a case until that investigation is complete and that person is either charged, or the case is closed and no charges are brought, in which case the name becomes releasable," Buschena previously said. "Furthermore, the officer in this case, the victim, has invoked his Marsy's Law rights, so we won't be releasing his name."

The Tribune's decision to publish the officer's name sparked a related protest from Back the Blue supporters in early November.

Before releasing his name Wednesday morning, Donlin said police sought guidance from the attorney general's office.

Only a few examples of victims have their identities protected under state law, including victims of domestic violence, sexual offenses and human trafficking. Child victims also are generally protected.

"Unless the victim falls into one of those categories, the victim's name cannot be withheld," the attorney general's guidelines state.

"We wanted to make sure that we researched and looked into this and checked with the attorney general's office," Donlin said. "This is new to everybody."