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Dilworth man arrested for shooting outside cinema in Fargo

FARGO - Police here have identified the suspect arrested in connection with a shooting that injured two people Sunday afternoon outside West Acres 14 Cinema.

Felipe Estrada, 44, of Dilworth, was arrested on suspicion of two counts of attempted murder, one count of reckless endangerment and one count of aggravated assault, according to a news release from Lt. Joel Vettel.

One man was shot in the torso and another suffered a head injury in a shooting outside West Acres 14 Cinema on Sunday afternoon, police reported.

Estrada was apprehended about an hour after the shooting by a Cass County Sheriff's Department deputy in the Horace area, police Lt. Joel Vettel said.

The victims, neither of whom were identified, were taken to Essentia Health for treatment, Vettel said. He did not know their conditions.

The incident began about 4:15 p.m., Vettel said. Police were notified of a disturbance with possible shots fired at 4:17 p.m., and officers were at the scene within three minutes, he said.

When officers arrived, they found two individuals injured, Vettel said. One man had suffered at least one gunshot wound to the torso, he said.

Vettel did not know the nature of the other man's injuries.

Firefighter Ross Wherle said the other man had been treated for a head wound. Witnesses also reported seeing the man with his head bandaged, sitting against a theater window.

Police quickly sent out a description of the vehicle the shooting suspect was believed to be riding in, Vettel said.

Estrada was located in the Horace area by Cass County deputies, assisted by the West Fargo Police Department.

He was taken into custody, and Vettel said he expected him to be formally arrested and charged later Sunday.

"We're confident we have the suspect in custody," Vettel said.

Attempted murder is a class AA felony punishable by up to life in prison without parole. Aggravated assault is a class B felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and/or up to a $10,000 fine. Aggravated reckless endangerment is a class C felony punishable by up to five years in prison and/or $5,000 fine.

Vettel said at least two shots were fired, but said he couldn't be more specific until a thorough investigation had been done.

He said a handgun was used in the shooting, and that police had seized a gun and were trying to determine if it had been used in the crime. He declined to say where the handgun had been seized.

He also said investigators were not ruling out the possibility that more than one firearm had been fired in the incident.

Vettel said the shooting, which occurred in the south parking lot in front of the theater, was not gang-related.

"We're very confident that all players knew each other, that there was a relationship between the victims and the suspect," Vettel said. "This is what we consider a very specific incident involving people that knew each other. It was not an act of random violence.

"We have no concerns that this is something that's going to spill out any more into the public. We feel that we have the individual in custody that was involved in this. ... This community is still safe. ... It is not a random act of violence," Vettel said.

At least one bullet was shot through a large window in front of the theater. A bullet hole could be seen in the center of one of the windows.

Vettel described the crime scene as chaotic, with several people in the general area of the shooting and the theater full. Still, he said police were confident no one had been hit by the round fired through the window.

"We feel the incident was contained to the area of the movie theater," Vettel reiterated. "The violence ended here."

A large swath of the south side of the parking lot was blocked off by police tape, and one by one, theatergoers were eventually allowed to remove their cars from the area.

Becca Smelser of Fargo and her friends were waiting to see their movie in theater 14, near the site of the attack.

"Right before the movie started, I heard gunshots," Smelser said.

"We just thought it was overlap from the other theater," one of her friends, Lisa Kremer of Fargo, said.

Then a theater employee told them they had to leave the building and gave them passes to a free film.

Nick Frost of Carson City, Nev., said he thought they were being warned about a tornado. Then he and his companion saw one of the windows in the lobby starred by a bullet, and the two victims being treated.

"The guy who asked us to leave, you could tell he was panicked," said Robin Frost of Fargo. "He looked really scared."

Vettel said investigators will continue to go over the scene. Meanwhile, officers were already spray-painting circles around items of interest. From a distance, one item appeared to be a shell casing.

At least two vehicles were being examined in the investigation, Vettel said.

He said he did not know whether the suspect was injured in the incident.

"We're very confident that everything is going to be fine. We're very confident we have the people we need in custody," Vettel said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583