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Two arrested in connection with Erskine shooting

Two teens have been arrested in connection with a Fourth of July shooting in Erskine, Minn., and the shooting victim could face theft charges.

According to Polk County Sheriff's Office, Octavio Benavidez Jr., 18, of Crookston, was shot early Monday in the stomach. He was taken to Essentia Health in Fosston, Minn., before being airlifted to Essentia Health in Fargo.

A hospital spokeswoman said he was treated and released Monday.

Daniel Morales, 18, and Mark Anthony Garcia, 17, both Crookston residents, were arrested in connection with the shooting.

Differing stories

Court documents filed today show that several Erskine residents reported items stolen from their vehicles early Monday, including a laptop computer, a Colt .45 handgun and a wallet, and Benavidez could face charges in connection to the thefts.

A Fosston paramedic told investigators that Benavidez said he had been walking around Erskine on Monday morning when he heard a gunshot, started to experience pain and realized he had been shot.

Deputies investigating the shooting spoke with Garcia, Christian Franklin Porter and another man at the hospital who said they didn't know who shot Benavidez.

But authorities found several items at Porter's Erskine residence that matched descriptions of the stolen property, including iPod accessories, a laptop computer and a garage door opener that didn't belong to Porter.

Investigators also found what appeared to be blood on the front steps, door and floor at the home and located a bronze slug and a .45 caliber shell casing in the basement.

Porter's wife told investigators that several people were in the house the night before and that she and her husband heard a loud bang in the house while they were upstairs. Porter went downstairs to see what happened and came back upstairs shortly after with Benavidez, who had blood on his shirt.

Porter's wife said she was told that Garcia had shot Benavidez in the stomach. While Porter and Garcia took Benavidez to the hospital, she drove Morales and another man to Crookston, and Morales told her he had thrown the gun in a lake, according to court documents.

Gabriel Gomez told a deputy that Morales, Benavidez and Garcia told him that they stole a laptop and an iPod during the night and that Morales showed him a black handgun that he said was his, but Gomez suspected it was stolen.

Gomez said Garcia had the handgun and pointed it at Benavidez. Morales grabbed the gun and tried to take it away from Garcia, but the handgun went off and a bullet struck Benavidez.

Morales originally told investigators that he had been sleeping upstairs at Porter's house at the time of the shooting and said he didn't know how the gun got there, what happened to the gun or how Benavidez got shot. He was arrested because he had been drinking alcohol and is under 21.

But in a follow-up interview, Morales said Benavidez and Garcia had left the residence during the night for about a half hour and returned with a laptop and an iPod. He said Garcia pulled out a black semi-automatic handgun, removed the ammunition clip, pointed it at Benavidez from across a pool table in Porter's house and pulled the trigger, shooting him in the stomach.

Morales initially told investigators that he had thrown the gun in a lake. But he later showed authorities where the gun was hidden in a floor vent in an abandoned Crookston trailer.

Morales appeared in Polk County district court today and will make an initial appearance next Monday. He's facing two counts of felony theft along with several other felony charges, including receiving stolen property, solicitation of a juvenile, aiding an offender to avoid arrest and aiding an offender after the fact.

Garcia was charged with felony theft of a firearm, possession of stolen property, felony theft, misdemeanor theft, assault in the second degree and reckless discharge of a firearm within a municipality.

The Polk County Sheriff's Office said the case is still active and under investigation.