Friday, April 28, 2006

Forest Lake, Minnesota

From the St. Paul Pioneer Press of April 28, 2006
Late-night visit leads to charges

Victim says he fired shot in self-defense

Three men face burglary charges after an alleged attempt to collect money in Forest Lake backfired and the supposed debtor shot one intruder in the leg with a shotgun.

Cody Joseph Mezzenga, 19, of Lino Lakes, Nicholas Adam Dereschuk, 19, of White Bear Lake, and Jeremy Scott Flom, 19, of Forest Lake will go to court in May accused of busting into 20-year-old Paul Rohde's apartment.

But Rohde apparently turned the tables and shot Mezzenga in the leg as the others fled. The three suspects are charged with aiding and abetting burglary.

Prosecutors are not charging Rohde, who they say appears to have acted in self-defense.

First Assistant Washington County Attorney Sue Harris said Rohde warned the group he was armed, while the chaos of the situation prevented investigators from determining exactly when shots were fired.

Mezzenga's attorney, Jeff DeGree, said his client probably shouldn't have been at the apartment but was merely going along with the group.

The defendants and other defense lawyers did not immediately return messages or answer calls for comment.

According to a criminal complaint drafted by Washington County Prosecutor Kari Lindstrom from police reports, friends of Dereschuk told police Rohde had either stolen or borrowed at least $250 from him. About 1 a.m. March 2, Lindstrom wrote, Dereschuk, Mezzenga, Flom and about six others drove to Rohde's North Shore Drive apartment to get the money back.

Rohde, who is not charged with a crime, told police he was sleeping when he heard the group trying to kick down his door. He grabbed a shotgun from under his bed, loaded it and walked out of his bedroom.

A witness told police that Rohde yelled out that he had a gun in the house and had the gun pointed at the group when the door was kicked in, authorities said.

The group fled; Rohde said one of the men pointed a handgun at him after he followed the group from the apartment. Rohde said he fired in the direction of the men, the complaint states, and the shot hit Mezzenga in the calf.

Mezzenga spent three weeks in the hospital, authorities said. DeGree, Mezzenga's attorney, said his clinet has suffered "serious complications" and his relatives "don't know whether he'll be able to walk again or work."

DeGree said Mezzenga's relatives were upset prosecutors weren't charging Rohde and challenged the idea he acted in self-defense, noting that no gun other than Rohde's was recovered.

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