ST. JAMES, Minn. - A southern Minnesota crop farmer who fatally shot a burglary suspect while he was fleeing the scene was sentenced Tuesday, after accepting a plea deal on a lesser charge.
David Allen Pettersen, 65, pleaded guilty to a charge of intentional discharge of a dangerous weapon in the Jan. 28 incident and was sentenced to 90 days in jail, plus two years of supervised probation. He will get credit for three days served.
According to the criminal complaint, Pettersen interrupted what he perceived as an attempted burglary at his rural Madelia home, grabbed a .45 caliber handgun and fired it at the suspect's vehicle, fatally striking the driver -- 19-year-old Nicolas Thomas Embertson. Embertson was in the vehicle with two other men, Kyle Thomas Nason and Cornelius Ayers, Jr., both 18. The two others in the car have been sentenced on burglary counts.
Families of both Pettersen and Embertson packed the courtroom during Tuesday's sentencing, where Pettersen addressed the court, saying he felt pain and loss since that fateful January day -- and absolutely no satisfaction in Embertson's death.
He said his reaction was sudden, a response to a perceived threat where he didn't know if he was about to be harmed.
"If it wasn't for their decision, I wouldn't have been in that position," he said.
That said, Pettersen said he wished he would've called 911 first.
Prior to the sentencing, Embertson’s mother, Tracy McCabe, read an impact statement arguing for a longer jail sentence.
"(Pettersen) shot and killed my son. My son was not a threat to him. My son did not enter his home,” McCabe said. “He was given a death sentence.”
A total of 16 victim impact statements were submitted to the court, but the only other family member who read theirs in court was Robert Embertson, Nicolas Embertson’s grandfather.
"Jail time is necessary to let the community know that you can’t take someone’s life when your life isn’t threatened," Robert Emberston said.
Pettersen was charged with second-degree manslaughter for Embertson's death, but that charge was dropped in exchange for his guilty plea. Pettersen's attorney said after the hearing they would petition for work release.
The judge said Tuesday's sentencing was a fair resolution, adding that he hopes "everyone can find peace."
Erik Embertson, Nicolas' father, gave the following statement to KARE 11 News:
"I think 90 days in jail was fair, along with the fact that he won’t have his felony dropped. It needs to be understood, nationwide, that you don’t take the law into your own hands.”
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