A man pleaded guilty Wednesday to shooting his sister's boyfriend in the back of the head at a funeral on the Fond du Lac Reservation last fall.

Shelby Gene Boswell, 29, appeared for a virtual hearing in U.S. District Court, entering guilty pleas to felony charges of being a felon in possession of a firearm and reckless discharge of a firearm within a school zone.

Boswell, who has a violent criminal history, including ties to the Native Mob, admitted under questioning to the Oct. 18, 2019, assault of 45-year-old Broderick Boshay Robinson at the Fond du Lac Head Start building.

Shelby Boswell
Shelby Boswell

According to court documents, Boswell entered the gym at Head Start building, 33 University Road in Cloquet, where his grandmother's funeral was being held, and walked up behind his sister and her boyfriend. He used a .22-caliber rifle to shoot Robinson, who was seated, in the back of the head.

Newsletter signup for email alerts

After being shot, Robinson, still conscious, turned around and saw Boswell pointing the rifle at him, according to a criminal complaint. Robinson then ran out of the gym. Meanwhile, mourners managed to disarm and briefly restrain Boswell before he left the building and went to the parking lot where he was arrested by police, the complaint said.

Police said they found bags of heroin and methamphetamine on Boswell at the time of arrest. During a search at the Carlton County Jail, staff also found a bag of marijuana, according to court documents.

The shooting sent the nearby Fond du Lac Ojibwe School and tribal offices into full lockdown. Although school was not in session because of Minnesota Educator Academy break, a number of children were still in the building for programming.

Robinson was treated and released from a hospital the day of the incident.

While authorities never publicly identified a suspected motive for the shooting, Boswell offered some insight in his testimony Wednesday.

"It wasn't my intention to harm anyone," he said. "I was just trying to scare someone."

"And by scaring them, you mean bringing that rifle in and discharging it, right?" asked Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Winter.

"Yes," Boswell replied.

"And would you agree that bringing that rifle into the funeral and discharging it to scare Mr. Robinson would be reckless disregard for the safety of him and other people there?" the prosecutor asked.

"Yes," the defendant responded.

Defense attorney Paul Engh told the court Boswell had rejected a plea offer from the government, opting to enter the pleas without the benefit of any agreement as to sentencing. A third count, possession of a firearm in a school zone, is expected to be dismissed.

Boswell will face a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison and a maximum of 15 years. Attorneys indicated the non-binding sentencing guidelines call for approximately 8-15 years.

Chief U.S. District Judge John Tunheim scheduled sentencing for Jan. 28.

Boswell has been previously convicted of violent crimes, including fifth-degree assault and second-degree assault involving a baseball bat on the Fond du Lac Reservation in 2010, as well as a 2015 third-degree assault in Bemidji resulting in substantial bodily harm.

Boswell also pleaded guilty in federal court to a felony count of assault in aid of racketeering for the 2010 incident. That plea came as part of a sweeping indictment targeting two dozen alleged members of the Native Mob, a regional criminal organization known to operate primarily in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

The funeral shooting initially brought him assault and drug possession charges in state court, but those counts were later dropped as Carlton County Attorney Lauri Ketola said federal prosecution "provides the greatest consequences for Mr. Boswell's alleged crimes."