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Rolette standoff suspect pleads not guilty to murder, other charges

Ronald Wayne Wootan, left, sits for a bail hearing on Aug. 1 in Rolette County District Court. (FNS Photo)

ROLETTE, N.D.—A Rolette man has pleaded not guilty to murder charges related to an eight-hour standoff in July.

Ronald Wayne Wootan, 49, faces life in prison without parole if convicted of killing 27-year-old James Pochant of Rugby, N.D. On Monday, Wootan denied the allegations laid out in a criminal complaint that say he fatally shot Pochant, whose body was found at 605 Third Ave. in Rolette after a late July standoff.

Wootan has been charged with a Class AA felony of murder.

Pochant was shot before officers were called to the home at 1 a.m. July 31, according to charging documents. When the Rolette County Sheriff's Office arrived, Wootan was standing outside and refused to lay down his firearm before he went into the home and threatened to kill people, prosecutors said in court documents and a news release.

Wootan shot at officers and hit a SWAT vehicle, and nearby homes were evacuated, the release alleged. Wootan eventually was arrested, but not before he allegedly ran from the house and officers had to used "non-lethal means," Rolette County State's Attorney Ryan Thompson said.

No one was injured during the standoff, Thompson previously said in the release.

Wootan also pleaded not guilty to charges related directly to the standoff—a Class A felony of criminal attempt-murder, and three Class C felonies, including terrorizing, reckless endangerment and preventing arrest or discharge of other duties.

A trial has been set for both cases for Sept. 17-30.

April Baumgarten

April Baumgarten joined the Grand Forks Herald May 19, 2015, and covers crime and education. She grew up on a ranch 10 miles southeast of Belfield, where her family raises registered Hereford cattle. She double majored in communications and history/political science at Jamestown (N.D.) College, now known as University of Jamestown. During her time at the college, she worked as a reporter and editor-in-chief for the university's newspaper, The Collegian. Baumgarten previously worked for The Dickinson Press as a city government and energy reporter in 2011 before becoming the editor of the Hazen Star and Center Republican. She then returned to The Press as a news editor, where she helped lead an award-winning newsroom in recording the historical oil boom.

Have a story idea? Contact Baumgarten at 701-780-1248.

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