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Cloquet resident charged with manslaughter following fight

Joel Jay Ammesmaki faces up to 15 years in prison and a $30,000 fine if convicted of the charges.

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A Cloquet man is in custody at the Carlton County Jail after police found another man dead at his apartment on the Fond du Lac Reservation.

Joel Jay Ammesmaki, 58, was arrested in the early morning hours of Tuesday, Sept. 14, and charged on Thursday, Sept. 16 with first-degree manslaughter after the Fond du Lac Tribal Police Department responded to a call at the Veteran’s Housing Complex at 1569 Zhimaaganishag Road in Cloquet.

According to the complaint, Ammesmaki reported he got into a fight with another man and wanted him removed from his apartment. When they arrived on the scene, officers found Ammesmaki standing near a couch and a man laying face up on the floor with dried blood around his nostrils.

When police arrived, the man was unresponsive, his eyes were partially open and he was not breathing, the complaint said. Paramedics attempted to provide care, but told officers the man was dead.

While police and medics were attempting to revive the man on the floor, Ammesmaki became distraught and said “that it wasn’t supposed to go this way,” according to the complaint, and told officers that he had punched the man in the face while they were fighting.

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Joel Jay Ammesmaki

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While Ammesmaki was detained in a squad car and again in an interview room at the police station, he made a number of unprompted statements discussing what happened, the complaint said.

Ammesmaki allegedly told police he was drinking with the man and watching a football game and a movie. He said the man called him the name of another resident at the complex and attempted to punch him but did not make contact. Ammesmaki punched the man twice and he fell down, according to the complaint. Ammesmaki said he thought the man was sleeping.

Officers collected security footage from the complex that showed Ammesmaki and the man entering his apartment at 12:34 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 14. Footage showed Ammesmaki leave his apartment to visit the security desk twice and once to knock on the door of another apartment between the men’s arrival at Ammesmaki’s apartment and when police arrived at 2:11 a.m., according to the complaint. No one else was seen leaving or entering the apartment during that time.

Cloquet Police Department Commander Adam Reed said the victim's name is being withheld until the family has been notified.

If convicted, Ammesmaki faces up to 15 years in prison, a $30,000 fine or both.

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This story was updated at 3:38 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 16, with Ammesmaki's photo and at 5:44 p.m. to include the day on which he was charged. It was originally posted at 1:19 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 16.

Jamey Malcomb has a been high school sports reporter for the Duluth News Tribune since October 2021. He spent the previous six years covering news and sports for the Lake County News-Chronicle in Two Harbors and the Cloquet Pine Journal. He graduated from the George Washington University in 1999 with a bachelor's degree in history and literature and also holds a master's degree in secondary English education from George Mason University.
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