Hennepin County attorney declines to investigate criminal charges into North High principal

The Hennepin County Attorney’s Office is declining to look into potential criminal charges against Minneapolis North Community High School’s principal over a school walkout on the afternoon sophomore Deshaun Hill Jr. was shot and killed last year.

Top prosecutor Mary Moriarty issued a written statement Wednesday in response to Hill’s family accusing Principal Mauri Friestleben of criminal liability for the rising football star’s death because she released students early for a protest without parent notification. Hill was shot near a bus stop by the school around noon on Feb. 9, 2022 when he otherwise would have been in school. Hill’s parents, Tuesday Sheppard and Deshaun Hill Sr., last week were paid a $500,000 settlement from the Minneapolis Public Schools in their son’s death. The district said in a statement after the settlement that it denied all liability

The accused shooter, Cody Fohrenkam, 30, is currently standing trial for second-degree murder, with jury selection currently in progress. Criminal charges allege that he shot Hill in a chance encounter after the two passed each other on the sidewalk.

“The murder of Deshaun Hill was a senseless act of gun violence that devastated those who knew and loved him, the North High School community, and the public more broadly,” Moriarty wrote. “After a thorough, effective investigation by the Minneapolis Police Department, the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office is now focused on holding the sole person we believe responsible for the murder accountable. Neither the investigation nor any additional recent public comments support any additional charges related to Deshaun’s death. We will not be commenting further on this matter until the conclusion of the trial.”‘

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Hill family’s attorney William Walker on Tuesday called on Moriarty and Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison to investigate criminal charges and convene a grand jury.

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Ellison and Friestleben did not respond to requests for comment.

Several longtime Twin Cities attorneys opined that criminal charges against Friestleben would be unlikely and inappropriate because it was a policy violation, not a crime, for the principal to release students early and join in the protest over Minneapolis police killing Amir Locke.

Friestleben later told families in a letter that doing so went against district protocol. She was put on leave but community outcry quickly resulted in a reversal of that decision.

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