FARGO — A 20-year-old man charged with murdering a local food truck owner wants a judge to throw out any evidence gathered by authorities after, what his defense attorneys argue, was an unlawful traffic stop and search the day of the fatal shooting.
Kareem Lee Byrd appeared before Cass County District Judge Stephannie Stiel on Thursday, Oct. 17, but his case was delayed until December to allow time for a hearing regarding the motion to suppress evidence and for a mental health evaluation to be completed.
Byrd and his co-defendant, 30-year-old Charles Edward Harris, have both pleaded not guilty to felony charges of murder and conspiracy to commit murder stemming from the killing of 38-year-old Jason “Jay” Allen Halvorson.
The alleged crime happened early June 7 in the parking lot of the former Sahr’s Sudden Service Station at 601 4th St. N. in Fargo. Byrd and Harris were arrested shortly afterward as a result of a traffic stop.
In the vehicle, authorities found a backpack containing a 9 mm handgun and a .22 caliber revolver. In a police interview, Byrd told investigators that he and Harris had a verbal confrontation with Halvorson and later shot him using a 9 mm semiautomatic and a .22 caliber revolver.
Byrd's defense attorneys are arguing that the search and seizure was unlawful and that any evidence obtained by law enforcement after that point should be suppressed.
One witness, who was walking his dog, reported that he encountered two men the morning of the shooting shortly before he heard gunshots. The witness told police they were “two younger black males,” and that one of them wore “blue jeans and a dark t-shirt” and the other “had a dark hoodie wearing light brown pants,” according to court documents.
A Clay County sheriff’s deputy, positioned on the First Avenue Bridge at about 1:02 a.m. that morning, noticed a gray van with people inside matching the suspects’ descriptions going south on Second Street North. The deputy followed the van, and it was pulled over at Second Avenue and 40th Street South.
Police ordered the van occupants — two women, three children and two men, later identified as Harris and Byrd — to exit. Harris was described in police reports as having dreadlocks and wearing a “white tank top and light blue jeans.”
The defense points to a Fargo officer’s report that notes that occupants of the van “didn’t appear to match the description.”
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The defense argues that the Clay County deputy who followed the van could not have “credibly, or even reasonably credibly” have identified the occupants of the van as suspects of a shooting “that had taken place blocks away ... particularly given how difficult it would have been to see that distance, at night, on the other side of a moving vehicle.”
The defense goes on to say that the best the deputy could have done “was report that there were two black men in a vehicle” going south on Second Street North.
“Based upon these circumstances, there simply was not enough to establish a reasonable suspicion that any occupants of the vehicle in question had anything at all to do with the shooting,” the defense said in court papers.
A hearing for attorneys to argue this motion has not yet been set.
The results of Byrd’s mental health evaluation — which will look at whether he is mentally fit to continue in assisting in his own defense and whether he had a mental defect or disease at the time of the alleged murder — have not yet been filed.