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Virginia man sentenced to 14 years for Cloquet drive-by shooting

Jesse Jay Bohanon

A man who shot at and hit two people in a neighboring car in July 2016 was sentenced to 173 months in state prison last week.

In a plea agreement, Jesse Jay Bohanon, 23, of Virginia pleaded guilty to one count each of first- and second-degree assault in the drive-by shooting case. He also pleaded guilty to assaulting a jailer and agreed to pay restitution for damage to his jail cell, according to Assistant Carlton County Attorney Jeffrey Boucher, who prosecuted the case.

"Mr. Bohanon's behavior calls for the significant prison sentence he will serve," Boucher said of the sentence of 14 years and five months. "When he fired multiple shots into an occupied vehicle near the intersection of Brevator and Big Lake Road he endangered the lives of the shooting victims as well as the lives of nearby residents and community members who could have been hit by a stray bullet."

Bohanon was originally charged with nine felonies, including two counts of second-degree attempted murder.

According to the criminal complaint:

Cloquet police officers responded to a call about shots fired in the vicinity of Brevator and Big Lake roads, a busy intersection near the tribal center in the heart of the Fond du Lac Reservation and within Cloquet city limits. Two Fond du Lac officers in the area also responded and said two vehicles were involved, a silver sedan and a white Jeep Cherokee. Bohanon was driving the jeep.

In an interview with the Pine Journal last July, Cloquet Police Chief Steve Stracek said Bohanon fired a gun two separate times at the victims, but the injuries occurred during the second shooting, at approximately 2:30 p.m. Sunday, July 24.

According to the criminal complaint, the female passenger reported to officers that she and the two men in the sedan had gone to the McDonald's restaurant in Cloquet to get something to eat when Bohanon drove up and began yelling and screaming at them in a threatening manner. They decided to leave and head west on Big Lake Road. Bohanon chased them in the Jeep up Big Lake Road onto Brevator Road.

According to the complaint, Bohanon allegedly sped up and attempted to pass them on Brevator Road. As he did so, he fired shots at the silver sedan. The driver of the sedan then slammed on the brakes and turned around. Bohanon also turned around and caught back up with them.

He shot again, the victims said, estimating that six to eight shots were fired the second time.

"One round entered the vehicle and struck the driver in the hand," Stracek said, noting the victims were actually on the phone with 911 before the first shots were fired. "Another round entered what we believe to be the rear of the vehicle, penetrated the seat and struck the second victim, who was seated in the back seat."

The female passenger was not injured.

At that point, the victims decided to drive to the Fond du Lac police station, where FDL police met them, provided first aid and contacted emergency responders. The victims were transported to St. Luke's hospital in Duluth, where the driver was treated and released. The victim who was hit in the back was in stable condition but still hospitalized as of that Wednesday morning.

In the meantime, according to the criminal complaint, Bohanon left the scene in what turned out to be a stolen vehicle, and hid at a home on the 1300 block of Dagwaagin Road, a dead-end road off Moorhead Road surrounded by brush and forest.

Carlton County sheriff's deputies eventually discovered the stolen vehicle hidden under a tarp, Stracek said, and Bohanon was apprehended after a four-hour search and foot pursuit.

Multiple agencies assisted in the search, spearheaded by Cloquet, including the Fond du Lac Police Department and the FDL Department of Natural Resources, the Minnesota State Patrol, Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and the Carlton County Consolidated Emergency Response Team (CERT), along with K-9 units from Fond du Lac police, the Carlton County Sheriff's Office, St. Louis County Sheriff's Office, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Stracek said police got several tips from area residents who saw the suspect during the search, including a motorcycle rider who nearly collided with Bohanon on University Road when he sprang out of a ditch there.

Two officers found Bohanon still on University Road when they went to investigate, but he wasn't ready to surrender initially, Stracek said.

"He wouldn't listen to commands and was very much challenging our officers to shoot him," Stracek said. "Then more officers arrived from the (CERT) team, with some less-lethal munitions," including bean bag rounds and electronic-type devices, and the suspect surrendered.

According to the criminal complaint, spent shell casings were found in the vehicle Bohanon had been driving as well on as the street where the drive-by shooting occurred.

Bohanon has a previous criminal record including felony second-degree burglary and second-degree assault with a dangerous weapon in Aitkin County in June 2013; he was sentenced to 36 months in prison in that case.