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Serious thought needed when looking at manslaughter charge

Dec. 30, 2013

by Ryan Gueningsman

Manslaughter and leaving the scene of an accident causing death are scary words and very serious charges.

Recently, a former Delano man had those charges leveled against him in North Dakota. The news story is on the front page of today’s newspaper.

This case appears to be one that goes much deeper than what appears in court documentation.

I do not know the man personally who was charged. However, I do know and have worked with several members of his family. Things like that make community journalism incredibly challenging some weeks. Yes, we have a job to do. But, yes, we are also human.

According to reports, David Krause had been working construction in a region in northwest North Dakota known as the Bakken oil fields.

The area has become known for “man camps,” which feature cheap living arrangements for men relocating to the area to try to earn good money working on the oil fields or in the surrounding area.

Since early 2006, production from what’s known as the Bakken formation has increased to more than 660,000 barrels of oil a day, moving North Dakota into second place among domestic suppliers, behind Texas and ahead of Alaska, according to National Geographic.

A number of people of all walks of lives have descended upon the region to put in some hard work – and get paid well for doing it.

Today, four-story chain hotels are rising, and small apartments rent for $2,000 a month. Two-lane roads are jammed with tractor-trailers. Fast-food restaurants offer $300 signing bonuses for new employees, and jobs as gas station attendants can pay $50,000 a year, according to an article published in the Helena Independent Record.

The culture this “oil boom” has bred has also faced its share of challenges.

Last year, a study by officials in Montana and North Dakota found that crime had risen by 32 percent since 2005 in communities at the center of the boom, the Helena Independent Record reported. Incidents of assault and theft have doubled or even tripled, and police say they are rushing from call to call, grappling with everything from bar brawls and shoplifting to kidnappings and attempted murders. Traffic stops for drunken or reckless driving have skyrocketed.

This brings us back to Krause’s story. Krause was at a bar with a couple buddies and was preparing to leave when another man reportedly “started causing trouble.”

Anyone with a social life has probably been in a situation like this, where an argument over something likely meaningless and unnecessary can quickly escalate. Throw in the fact that alcohol can fuel the fire of unnecessary altercations. Combine this with the “wild west” atmosphere, it is easy to see how things can easily get out of hand.

It will be up to the judicial and investigative process to determine what happened the night of Dec. 5 and the days that followed involving Krause and his buddies.

Manslaughter is defined as the crime of killing a person without intending to do so.

I have no doubt in my mind Krause didn’t intend to kill or even hurt anyone.

While this does not change the tragic fact a man died as a result of the incident, it does warrant serious thought and consideration before judging the situation.