Herald Journal Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal, March 25, 2002

Berry appears in court on Feb. 17 shooting

By Gail Lipe

Benjamin Keith Berry, 16, Lester Prairie, appeared in McLeod County District Court on Monday regarding the Feb. 17 shooting of Ryan Fiecke, 16, Lester Prairie, in Lester Prairie.

Berry was previously charged with three felonies - felon in possession of a firearm, second-degree assault and receiving stolen property.

The hearing was a probable cause hearing in which Patrick Goggins, Berry's attorney, contested Berry's intent regarding the second-degree assault charge.

Throughout the hearing, he brought up the statements made by Berry during the investigation that Fiecke's getting shot was an accident. The two were "messing around with" and "screwing around with" the gun.

At approximately 9:40 p.m. on Feb. 17, Lester Prairie Police Officer Mark Thury responded to a call at the Dodge House on Juniper Street in Lester Prairie that a juvenile male had been shot.

He said Fiecke and his parents were standing outside the Dodge House with a group of people when he arrived. Fiecke was dazed, and there appeared to be entry and exit wounds in Fiecke's head-neck area from a bullet.

Apparently Fiecke told the by-standers that he was getting a can of pop from the pop machine when he was shot. Thury said there was no evidence in the parking lot across the street from the pop machine, and there were no witnesses that heard a shot.

He said there were people looking out of the window from the apartment building above the pop machine, so the investigators went to ask them questions. That led the investigators to determine that the crime scene was in the Keith Berry residence, 28 Juniper St. North, Apt. 3.

There were drops of blood on the kitchen floor and blood on the door handle and door jam of the apartment, Thury said. He said he found out Berry and his younger brother were in the apartment with Fiecke earlier in the evening so he tracked down the boys and questioned them.

Sometime during the questioning, Berry admitted that he shot Fiecke accidentally and took Thury to where he hid the gun. The gun was hidden under an air conditioning unit in the alley between Jonio's and Gail Lipe's building.

The gun was previously registered as a stolen weapon and had been taken during a burglary from the city of Lester Prairie months before. According to Thury, Berry said he received the gun from another friend.

Lester Prairie Police Officer Cpl. Bob Carlson said once Fiecke had learned that the location of the crime scene was moved to the apartment, Fiecke said that Berry shot him by accident.

Goggins asked Thury if he found during the investigation that Berry and Fiecke were good friends, and that there was no evidence of a fight or an altercation. Thury said that was what he found.

Thury also agreed that he heard that both boys were messing around with the gun, and that they were shocked when it went off.

The gun is a swivel barrel pistol in which the two bullet chambers can turn. If there is one bullet in one of the chambers, and the chambers are locked into place, Goggins said it is difficult to know which barrel the bullet is in.

Fiecke said he had seen the gun before and knew that it was stolen. He said the two boys were fooling around with the gun for about 10 minutes before he was shot.

Fiecke said he was getting ready to leave and was facing away from Berry when he heard the shot. He did not see Berry point the gun at him at any time.

He also said both boys had had a beer and smoked some pot, but he said he was not high. He said Berry was not trying to hurt him, and that Berry walked him to the Dodge House to get help.

Assistant McLeod County Attorney Amy Olson asked him if someone points a gun at someone else and pulls the trigger, is that an accident? Fiecke said no, but that Berry shot him accidentally.

Closing arguments for probable cause are due to the judge by next Monday. From there, the judge will determine whether or not there is probable cause to go to trial, which he will need to decide before the certification hearing on April 4.

The certification study and certification evaluation are under way to help determine whether or not Berry should be certified and tried as an adult. That will be decided on April 4.

If Berry is tried and convicted as an adult, he could face up to 20 years in prison and/or a $100,000 fine.


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