Teens Nearly Killed After Police Mistook Telescope for a Rifle and Sweater for a Tactical Vest

Fargo, ND — On Monday night, Levi Joraanstad and Colin Waldera were setting up their large telescope to take pictures of the moon. However, they were quickly interrupted by bright spotlights and loud voices yelling at them to stop moving.


Thinking it was a joke or a prank by fellow students, Waldera and Joraanstad continued to dig in their bags and ignored the shouting voices.

“I was kind of fumbling around with my stuff and my roommate and I were kind of talking, we were kind of wondering, what the heck’s going on?” said NDSU junior Levi Joraanstad. “This is pretty dumb that these guys are doing this. And then they started shouting to quit moving or we could be shot. And so at that moment we kind of look at each other and we’re thinking we better take this seriously.”

It was not a prank, and their lives were in danger. Cops were in the middle of a deadly mistake.

According to police, an officer driving through the neighborhood saw the two teens and Joraanstad’s dark colored sweater with white lettering and mistakenly thought it was a tactical vest. He also mistook the huge telescope for a rifle.

Even if these two teens would have been carrying a rifle and wearing a tactical vest, they weren’t breaking any laws. Not to mention, that North Dakota’s murder rate by firearm ranges in the single digits annually, so this officer’s fears were entirely unfounded.

However, he apparently feared for his safety enough to call in the cavalry. After checking to make sure there were no agencies conducting operations, several more officers were called to the scene and descended onto the stargazing teens.

Luckily no one was killed. Had this mistake happened in a different neighborhood of a lower socioeconomic status, however, the result would have likely been shots fired.

We do have to hand it to the responding officers for not killing these college kids. Amazingly enough, after the incident was over, police were even apologetic.

Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. AlterNet’s journalists work tirelessly to counter the traditional corporate media narrative. We’re here seven days a week, 365 days a year. And we’re proud to say that we’ve been bringing you the real, unfiltered news for 20 years—longer than any other progressive news site on the Internet.

It’s through the generosity of our supporters that we’re able to share with you all the underreported news you need to know. Independent journalism is increasingly imperiled; ads alone can’t pay our bills. AlterNet counts on readers like you to support our coverage. Did you enjoy content from David Cay Johnston, Common Dreams, Raw Story and Robert Reich? Opinion from Salon and Jim Hightower? Analysis by The Conversation? Then join the hundreds of readers who have supported AlterNet this year.

Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Help ensure AlterNet remains independent long into the future. Support progressive journalism with a one-time contribution to AlterNet, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you. Click here to donate by check.

DonateDonate by credit card

Close

Thanks for your support!

Did you enjoy AlterNet this year? Join us! We're offering AlterNet ad-free for 15% off - just $2 per week. From now until March 15th.