A jury in South Central District Court in Bismarck has found 17-year-old Jesse Taylor Jr. guilty of murder in the fatal shooting of Maurice Thunder Shield, a 28-year-old man from McLaughlin, South Dakota, at a north Bismarck motel. The verdict was reached after approximately 2½ hours of jury deliberations over two days. During the incident, Taylor also wounded a motel worker and was convicted of aggravated assault. Sentencing has not yet been scheduled, but Taylor could face life in prison without parole. Judge James Hill has ordered a presentence investigation.
Taylor, who was 16 at the time of the shooting, and Thunder Shield were known to each other, according to the police. The case was moved from juvenile jurisdiction to adult court by a judicial referee due to Taylor’s limited juvenile history and non-compliance with probation.
During the trial, defense attorney Phillip Becher argued that Taylor acted in self-defense following a verbal altercation with Thunder Shield at the Motel 6. Prosecutor Dennis Ingold countered that Taylor had the opportunity to retreat before resorting to deadly force. Surveillance video from the motel was presented as evidence, showing Thunder Shield on different floors and allegedly acting in a menacing manner.
Ingold argued that Taylor’s firing of multiple rounds over several seconds demonstrated his intent to kill Thunder Shield. Four of the five shots fired struck Thunder Shield, while the fifth hit motel employee Frederick Loewy, who sustained injuries. Taylor fled the scene but was later apprehended in Warren, Minnesota. The firearm used in the shooting was recovered in Bismarck’s Jaycee Centennial Park.
The jury ultimately chose to convict Taylor on the murder charge, rejecting the lesser alternatives of manslaughter or negligent homicide. Family members of Taylor expressed their displeasure with the verdict as they left the courthouse. It is unclear if Thunder Shield had any family present during the reading of the verdict.