An 18-year-old from Cloquet has been charged with second-degree manslaughter following the death of a 16-year-old boy Monday on the Fond du Lac Reservation in St. Louis County.

The victim's body was located in a truck around 1:30 a.m. Monday. The St. Louis County Attorney's office issued a warrant Tuesday for the arrest of Joseph James Fohrenkam. St. Louis Sheriff's Office said his whereabouts were unknown as of Wednesday afternoon.

In three interviews with witnesses Monday and Tuesday, law enforcement heard that five people, including Fohrenkam and the victim, were in the vehicle at the time the fatal shooting occurred on Giiniw Road, according to the criminal complaint. All three witnesses, who had fled the scene before officers arrived, told police that the group was drinking alcohol while sitting in the truck.


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The first witness told police Fohrenkam was sitting in the driver's seat and the victim was sitting in the back middle seat when the witness heard gunfire inside the car. The witness saw blood under the victim's eye and Fohrenkam leave the vehicle holding a firearm, the complaint said. After the witness ran inside, he heard about eight more gunshots outside. The residents of the house asked him to leave.

The second witness police interviewed recalled similar events, though in more detail. He told police there were no disagreements or arguments; everyone was "just talking," the complaint said. Fohrenkam was "showing off" his pistol and waving it around. He then pointed it toward the victim in the back seat.

The second witness was under the impression that the pistol discharged while Fohrenkam was pulling the firearm back, possibly hitting his arm on the center console.

That witness went inside to call 911. He told police he had not been in touch with Fohrenkam since.

Joseph James Fohrenkam (Photo courtesy of St. Louis County Sheriff's Office)
Joseph James Fohrenkam (Photo courtesy of St. Louis County Sheriff's Office)

According to the complaint, the third witness told police he was blacking out at the time of the shooting. The group was on their second bottle of brandy. He said he saw Fohrenkam waving the firearm around and "pointing it at everyone in the truck." At one point, Fohrenkam removed the magazine and racked the slide back. He thought a round had ejected.

He told police he was trying to ignore Fohrenkam. While closing his eyes for a short amount of time, he heard a loud sound followed with what he described as the smell of a recently fired gun.

The third witness said that while leaving the scene, he saw Fohrenkam shooting the gun an unknown amount of times at a bottle on the ground, or at the truck.

The sheriff's office isn't releasing the victim's name until the Midwest Medical Examiner's Office has made an official positive identification by reviewing applicable medical records.

Joseph Fohrenkam is believed to be with his mother, Littlefawn Fohrenkam, 38, and may still be in possession of a 9 mm handgun.

Call 911 or 218-625-3581 if you have information regarding this case. The sheriff's office said Joseph Fohrenkam has connections in the Minneapolis area as well as areas of Wisconsin.

This story was updated at 3:02 p.m. Dec. 30 with additional information from the St. Louis County Sheriff's Office. It was originally posted at 1:40 p.m. Dec. 30.