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'Gentle and compassionate': Police shooting victim's sister remembers his struggle to get help

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WEST FARGO – Just days after a police standoff here left Justin Dietrich dead, his sister is speaking out.

Dietrich's sister, Alyson Bring, says her brother struggled with addiction for years – a struggle her family tried to get help for, but ultimately went untreated before his death.

"He was one of the most kindhearted, gentle and compassionate people I knew," Bring said.

The man she knew as her brother wasn't the one grabbing headlines after being shot by local SWAT team members during a standoff Monday night, March 12.

The standoff started as an attempted traffic stop at about 8:30 p.m. Monday, which led to a high-speed chase that ended with Dietrich stopping in the 1000 block of West Fargo’s 11th Street West.

West Fargo Police Chief Heith Janke said earlier this week that authorities believed there were weapons in the pickup truck where Dietrich was holed up.

The Red River Valley SWAT Team took over the situation about 10 p.m. Monday. And Dietrich got out of the truck at 10:37 p.m., but refused to follow commands and posed “an imminent deadly threat” to the SWAT Team, authorities said.

West Fargo spokeswoman Melissa Richard said Tuesday, March 13, that she couldn’t confirm whether weapons were found in the truck or whether Dietrich was armed when he was shot. It remains unclear why officers viewed the man as “an imminent deadly threat.”

Four members of the SWAT team fired at Dietrich, who died from his wounds. The officers were placed on standard paid administrative leave.

Dietrich’s sister remembers a little brother with a serious problem, a problem she said contributed to his death this week. "As an attorney, I see daily the effects alcoholism and addiction have on people and that people from all walks of life suffer from it,” Bring said.

She said her family has filed numerous civil commitments trying to get help for her brother, but were stymied each time. "The very institutions set up to help people are not working,” she said.

Court documents show Dietrich was scheduled to appear in Cass County District Court on Wednesday, March 14, on a felony charge of terrorizing related to accusations that he threatened to kill his father at his father’s south Fargo home on Oct. 24.

Dietrich, of Fargo, also pleaded guilty in 2016 to a felony count of terrorizing in Cass County.

Bring said she’s speaking out now about the struggle so many other families must go through  fighting to commit those who need it.

"I was literally told at one point that the only way that they will commit somebody is if they find them with a gun in their hand, threatening to take their own life," she said.

Bring said she hopes to make some good out of a troubling situation.

"I'm hoping to testify at the next legislative session in terms of the laws about commitment proceedings, and tell Justin's story in hopes of getting some of those things changed," she said.