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Dickinson man arraigned on attempted murder charge

Joseph Bullins, 23, appeared in Southwest District Court on Monday for a preliminary hearing on charges of attempted murder for his alleged admission to shooting his roommate in July.

SW District Courthouse
Stark County Courthouse
Dickinson Press file photo
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DICKINSON — In a preliminary arraignment hearing at the Southwest District Court on Monday, Joseph Bullins, 23, appeared before Judge James Gion to face multiple felony charges related to his involvement in shooting his roommate in the face in the early morning hours of July 14.

According to testimony, on the night of the incident Bullins is alleged to have been drinking with his two roommates and an acquaintance. Dickinson Police Department Detective Evan Kinto testified that Bullins told him that he believed his roommate was hiding his firearms, and claimed that one of the guns inexplicably reappeared after he brought it up to the roommate.

Kinto testified that Bullins confronted the roommate, attempting to extract a confession, and when that was unsuccessful chambered a round into his semi-automatic, 40 caliber handgun. According to testimony of the events that transpired thereafter, Kinto said that the roommate lunged at Bullins at which point he fired the shot. Following the incident Bullins fled the residence and called his work supervisor, who allegedly told law enforcement that Bullins admitted to having committed the act deliberately.

The work supervisor urged Bullins to contact law enforcement, which he later did. By the time first responders arrived at the scene of the incident, the victim had been laying on the floor bleeding for approximately 20 minutes.

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Although only one shot was fired, Kinto testified there were several other empty shell casings on the floor in that room and that Bullins during questioning made several contradictory statements. Among the contradictions testified to in court, Kinto said Bullins, at various times, said that he both did and did not intend to shoot the victim — also claiming that he only “meant to graze, but not kill him.”

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Bullins’ Public Defender, Phillip Becher, addressing the court in defense of his client noted that hospital records indicated that the victim himself stated he did not believe Bullins shot him on purpose. Becher also pointed out that the victim had to be sedated, after he became violent and combative with paramedics.

Bullins is charged with four felonies, including attempted murder, reckless endangerment and two counts of aggravated assault. The maximum sentence for attempted murder under North Dakota Century Code is 20 years in prison.

According to testimony, the bullet entered the victim's head near his left ear and exited through his right cheek. Following medical first responder care, the victim was later life-flighted to Bismarck for emergency care. Records indicated that the victim suffered a fractured jaw, fractured cheekbones and permanent nerve damage to the skin in the area of his face. Surgeons used plates and screws to repair the fractures.

Mug shot
Joseph Bullins was arrested at approximately 3:30 a.m. on July 14.
Contributed / Dickinson Police Department

Becher conceded that the reckless endangerment charge was justified, but argued that such behavior did not constitute attempted murder. In his closing argument, Stark County Assistant State’s Attorney Peter Morowski argued that because Bullins admitted to firing a shot at the victim, with the intention of harming him, any decisions made subsequent to that are irrelevant to the matter at hand.

“If that’s not attempted murder, I don’t know what is. His behavior was reckless,” Morowski said.

Entering a plea of not guilty on all counts, Bullins is tentatively scheduled for a pretrial conference on Nov. 1, with a follow-on felony jury trial targeted for Nov. 16 at the Southwest District Court.

Bullins remains in custody at the Southwest Multi-County Correctional Center.

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Jason O’Day is a University of Iowa graduate, with Bachelor’s Degrees in Journalism and Political Science. Before moving to Dickinson in September of 2021, he was a general news reporter at the Creston News Advertiser in rural southwest Iowa. He was born and raised in Davenport, Iowa. With a passion for the outdoors and his Catholic faith, he’s loving life on the Western Edge.
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