Jury selection begins Tuesday in the murder trial of a man accused in the fatal shooting of star Minneapolis North High quarterback Deshaun Hill Jr. in a chance encounter last year.
Cody Fohrenkam, 30, is pleading not guilty to second-degree murder in the killing of Hill, 15, last February, gutting his family and the North Side community that lovingly called him D-Hill.
Charges hint at no motive in the Feb. 9 shooting, aside from a possible chance encounter when the two may have brushed shoulders on the street. Charges say Fohrenkam, who has an extensive violent criminal history, turned and shot Hill multiple times He died the next day at North Memorial Health in Robbinsdale.
Hill was recently featured in the new Showtime television series "Boys In Blue" that gives an intimate look at his football team and coaching staff — comprised mostly of Minneapolis and Metro Transit police— in the aftermath of George Floyd's murder and ongoing gun violence.
As quarterback, Hill is a main character. But the filming of the four-part series wrapped up before the shooting and unwittingly foreshadows his tragic death. Hill shares how he was at first reluctant to go to school at North Community High School because of too many "distractions" and he "didn't want to be around all of that. I want to get my work done."
"Deshaun's seen a lot of people get murdered, some of his friends ... people getting beat up, ran over, shot at. I've been through that. That's traumatizing as a kid," coach and Minneapolis police officer Rick Plunkett said of Hill in the series premiere.
On Thursday, Fohrenkam's public defender Brooke Adams asked Hennepin County District Judge Julie Allyn for a change in venue, citing the prejudicial influence of the television show. Adams, who did not immediately respond to requests for comment, also asked to push the trial date out farther. Allyn previously denied a similar request in November.
The trial comes one week after Hill's family received a $500,000 settlement from the Minneapolis Public School District. They accused the district of being responsible for the sophomore's death because he should've never been at the bus stop at noon that day, but Principal Mauri Friestleben released students early to protest the police killing of Amir Locke during a no-knock warrant.
Hill didn't join the demonstration. Instead, the family's attorney William Walker said that Hill went to take the bus home when normally his parents brought him to and from school. He said Hill was focused on good grades, mindful that dozens of college recruiters were eyeing him.
Hill had a "true shot at life" to remove himself from poverty and violence. Walker said that Hill "was the northern light of that community."
"Everyone knew D-Hill was going places in life," he said. "I cannot express to you how painful this was for the family. He was their hope. All they had. ... It was all gone in an instant."
Walker said that Hill's parents, Tuesday Sheppard and Deshaun Hill Sr., are already disappointed with the trial delays. Jury selection was supposed to start Nov. 7, but it was moved to January.
"Justice is coming," Walker said. "It won't be complete. It will never be complete because D-Hill Jr. is no longer with us. The parents and the family, they do what they can do to cope. They hope that this trial is not delayed."
Officers found Hill lying on the northwest corner of N. Penn Avenue and Golden Valley Road with a gunshot wound to the head. He died the next day at the hospital.
Two weeks after the shooting and on the same day as Hill's memorial service where hundreds gathered to honor and mourn the rising star, police arrested his suspected killer.
Fohrenkam, who is from Cloquet and Minneapolis, was already in custody at the Carlton County jail on trespassing and drug possession charges, according to court documents.
His criminal history in Minnesota includes two convictions each for illegal weapons possession, illicit drugs and robbery, and one each for arson and assault.
Surveillance video showed Fohrenkam walking toward Hill and they pass each other "close enough to possibly brush shoulders," the criminal complaint says.
The complaint continues:
Hill and Fohrenkam were the only two people on the street. Hill kept walking, but Fohrenkam stopped and three shots can be heard on the video.
A witness encountered Fohrenkam shortly before the shooting and told police that Fohrenkam said he was looking for someone who had stolen his cellphone. That witness also heard the gunfire and saw Fohrenkam running.
Other witnesses gave a description matching Fohrenkam, but he at first told investigators that he was in Wisconsin the day of the shooting. Then he said he was with his cousin in south Minneapolis.
When police told him surveillance video put him near the scene of the shooting, he admitted he was in the area looking for a cellphone thief.
His cousin denied being with Fohrenkam that day. But detectives say that since his arrest, Fohrenkam has made calls from jail "seeking to set up an alibi for himself."
Prosecutors plan to call more than 30 witnesses to the stand, mostly law enforcement and first responders, while one relative of Fohrenkam's is on the list of potential witnesses to testify.
There are five eyewitness who identified Fohrenkam as the shooter through photo identification who could also take the stand. Fohrenkam's attorneys intend to discredit that identification process. Court documents indicate that the defense will argue it created a likelihood of "irreparable misidentification" and violated Fohrenkam's right to due process.