UPDATE: Man dies as result of alleged hunter harassment
Kevin Thomas McCormick, 51, of Breezy Point, has been charged in Clearwater County District Court with felony first-degree assault and misdemeanor hunter harassment.
According to the criminal complaint:
At about 10:45 p.m. Nov. 6, a White Earth Tribal Police officer responded to a report by McCormick that a trespasser had put a deer stand in a tree on property located near Height-of-Land Road in Clearwater County. McCormick reported that the two of them had had "a scuffle" and fell off the deer stand. Law enforcement officers found neither the reporter nor the alleged trespasser on the scene.
At about 6 a.m. Nov. 7, the Mahnomen County Sheriff's Office received a 911 emergency call requesting an ambulance for a man with back injuries. Jerry Donald Benedict was taken to the Mahnomen Health Center and then airlifted to Fargo, N.D., because of the severity of injuries.
Benedict suffered several broken vertebrae, internal abdominal bleeding and blood in his lungs. On Wednesday, Nov. 24, Benedict died at the hospital from internal injuries.
Investigation by the White Earth Police Department and Clearwater County Sheriff's Office continues. Brand said she will review the possibility of additional charges after reviewing the medical report.
At the Mahnomen Health Center, Benedict told the Mahnomen County Sheriff's deputy he was sitting in his tree stand in late morning Nov. 6 when a man confronted him and accused him of trespassing.
Clearwater County Attorney Jeanine Brand said in an e-mail that the ownership of the property is under investigation. A check of the Clearwater County Assessor's Office shows that McCormick does not own land in that county.
Benedict said the man who confronted him started pulling on the canvas on his tree stand causing the stand to fall out of the tree. Benedict fell about 16 feet to the ground.
McCormick was arrested Nov. 8. He made a statement that he told Benedict he was trespassing on his property, but Benedict said he was on White Earth Tribal land and had permission to hunt there. McCormick said he extended his business card to Benedict but couldn't reach high enough, so he stepped on the deer stand ladder and grabbed the canvas surrounding it. He said the tree stand tipped and fell to the ground.
McCormick was arrested and arraigned Nov. 8. Bail was set at $10,000 without conditions or $500 cash with conditions.