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Crosslake man receives downward sentence for shooting man in leg

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news Brainerd, 56401
Brainerd MN 506 James St. / PO Box 974 56401

The 60-year-old Crosslake man — who shot another man in the leg at his home in June and who told a Crow Wing County dispatcher “I’m not worried about him, I’m just worried about him living at this point” — will be on supervised probation for 10 years.

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Larry Joe Bolton was sentenced Thursday by Judge Erik Askegaard in Crow Wing District Court. Askegaard sentenced Bolton to a stay of execution of 36 months in prison. A stay of execution sentence means that Bolton will not serve prison time, unless he violates the conditions of his release. If he does violate the terms of his release, he may have to serve the 36 months in prison imposed by the judge.

Bolton came to the sentencing hearing in Court Room 6 wearing a tie, shirt and blazer with blue jeans, with his attorney Dennis Lothspeich, Brainerd.

Bolton pleaded guilty on Nov. 21, 2013, to second-degree assault with a dangerous weapon for allegedly shooting Robbie Lee Bjerkness, 31, Crosslake, in the leg in June of 2013. Bolton was initially charged June 3, 2013, with second-degree attempted murder-with intent, but not premeditated; first-degree assault to cause great bodily harm; second-degree assault with a dangerous weapon to cause substantial bodily harm; and second-degree assault with a dangerous weapon.

When Bolton accepted a plea agreement in November, he pleaded guilty to second-degree assault with a dangerous weapon to cause substantial bodily harm. The plea agreement dismissed the serious two felony counts of second-degree attempted murder-with intent, but not premeditated and first-degree assault to cause great bodily harm. As part of the plea agreement, the second-degree assault with a dangerous weapon would be dismissed and disorderly conduct was added.

Crow Wing County Attorney Don Ryan filed a motion with the court to recommend a downward departure sentence for Bolton for several reasons, including his age; he has no criminal history; he was feeling distressed during the time of the shooting incident; he did call 911 to turn himself him; he cooperated with authorities on the case; and he shows remorse.

Ryan said both the victims, who did not attend the sentencing hearing, supported the downward departure sentence. Ryan said his office found out Thursday morning that Bjerkness was in custody in the Mille Lacs County Jail on previous charges. Ryan said when he talked with Bjerkness about the sentencing, Bjerkness said, “He (Bolton) would not last in prison,” and agreed with the sentence.

Ryan told the judge that it’s not common for him to ask for a lesser sentence when it comes to crimes involving a shooting.

“However, in this case it is warranted,” he said.

Lothspeich agreed and said this is an usual case where all parties agree with the plea agreement/sentence.

Askegaard agreed and sentenced Bolton, telling him that he should feel lucky, as the shooting could have been a lot worse if Bjerkness would have died.

When asked if Bolton had anything to say, he said he did not as the attorneys had already stated the case.

“I know you are a man of few words,” said Askegaard.

Bolton was sentenced to 90 days for the disorderly conduct charge, but was given credit for time already served, which was 172 days.

Bolton’s situation began when the Crosslake Police Department and the Crow Wing County Sheriff’s Office responded to a shooting at 6:06 p.m. June 3, 2013, at his year-round lakeshore home. Bolton was taken into custody without incident and Bjerkness was airlifted to an unknown hospital. Bjerkness entered into surgery upon arrival and the hospital said there was a high probability he would lose one of his legs, court documents said.

According to the criminal complaint and information from the county attorney’s office:

• A woman, Kelly Keith of Coon Rapids, called the county dispatch center requesting an ambulance and she indicated that Bjerkness had been shot by Bolton with a shotgun and that she was afraid the victim was going to die. Keith indicated this was not an accidental shooting and that Bolton shot him on purpose.

• While Keith was speaking with one of the dispatchers, the dispatch center received a second call, this time from Bolton. He indicated he needed an ambulance and a sheriff’s deputy at his residence because a young man had just pointed a gun at him and he had to fire his weapon. Bolton told the dispatcher the weapon was in the kitchen and the gentleman whom he shot was in the loft. Bolton also indicated that there was a girl in the loft.

• Bolton told the dispatcher he had been trying to get the victim out of the residence but that he didn’t get the message. When the dispatcher asked Bolton whether or not Bjerkness had a weapon that they needed to worry about, he replied “I don’t think we need to worry about him right now, he’s down, if he lives.” Bolton also told the dispatcher “I’m not worried about him, I’m just worried about him living at this point.” and “Just tell them I shot (the victim) I had to.” Bolton also said “He (the victim) just wouldn’t leave me alone” and “I had to put an end to it. I was just getting overwhelmed. The court will have to ask me about it.”

• Law enforcement officers arrived at the residence and observed Bjerkness lying on the floor of the loft in a pool of blood. In the loft, sheriff deputies located two spent shotgun shells and they found a shotgun in Bolton’s residence that is believed to have been used in the shooting.

• Investigators took a statement from Keith, who indicated she went to the residence and spoke with Bjerkness. They talked about a letter he had gotten recently from Bolton and it was her understanding the letter was asking Bjerkness to pull his weight or get out.

• Keith indicated she and Bjerkness laid down on a couch and took a nap. She awakened when she heard Bolton walking up the stairs to the loft. She heard Bolton ask him if he had read the letter and she could feel Bolton stand up next to the bed. Then she heard a gunshot and opened her eyes to see Bolton pointing a long rifle in the direction of herself and Bjerkness and then observed a flash come from the gun and heard the gun go off a second time. At that point, Bolton simply stood looking at them, did not say anything and left the loft. At no point did Keith observe Bjerkness threaten or use any sort of weapon in response to Bolton.

JENNIFER STOCKINGER may be reached at jennifer.stockinger@brainerddispatch.com or 855-5851. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jennewsgirl.

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