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Teen who shot man a year ago outside Willmar house party pleads guilty to first-degree assault

A St. Cloud man has pleaded guilty to first-degree assault in a June 2019 shooting after a party in southwest Willmar. While on his way to detention, he threatened to "take care of" the officers and to send Latin Kings gang members to their homes.

JeremiahAdamTorke.jpg
Jeremiah Adam Torke

WILLMAR — An 18-year-old St. Cloud man who shot a person after a house party in Willmar a year ago has pleaded guilty to first-degree assault causing great bodily harm.

The man who was shot had his gall bladder removed, and his liver was damaged by the bullet. The bullet was left in his body, according to court records, because doctors said it could not be removed without causing additional damage.

Under a plea agreement, three other felony charges against Jeremiah Adam Torke will be dismissed at sentencing. Those charges are second-degree murder with intent, second-degree assault with a dangerous weapon and threats of violence for threatening to kill police officers.

Torke pleaded guilty late last week in Kandiyohi County District Court. He is to be sentenced Nov. 18. When he is sentenced, he is to receive credit for 145 days already served in jail.

Torke was 17 when he was arrested after the 3 a.m. shooting June 30, 2019, outside a party in the 900 block of Second Street Southwest. His case was referred to adult court in fall 2019.

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Willmar Police Department officers and ambulance personnel arrived at the scene to find a man who had been shot in the chest lying on the ground in front of the house next door to the party. The man was awake and answering questions when they arrived.

When the man was interviewed in the hospital, he said he had been standing 10 to 15 feet away from the young man who had shot him, and he didn’t know why he had been shot.

A female witness told authorities that Torke had been fighting with people at the party and was told to leave. Shortly after he left, people at the party heard three shots. The witness said she went outside and saw the shooting victim on the ground and Torke in a parking lot across the street, according to the criminal complaint.

A man who witnessed the shooting told authorities the shooting victim had tried to keep people calm and keep Torke from fighting with others.

A male witness spoke to Torke in the parking lot, and Torke allegedly threatened to shoot him, too. Another witness told Torke to leave, and he did.

About an hour after the shooting was reported, a woman reported that Torke’s girlfriend had been at her house and was hysterical, saying Torke had allegedly been involved in a shooting. Torke was reportedly at his girlfriend’s house.

Officers found Torke at his girlfriend’s house. They searched him and found a handgun in the pocket of his shorts.

After he was placed in the back of a squad car, Torke banged his head against a window, even when he was in restraints. Officers had to carry him in when they arrived at Prairie Lakes Youth Programs detention center.

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During the drive, Torke allegedly swore at officers and made threats that he would “take care of them” when he got out.

Torke also reportedly said he would have Latin Kings gang members attack officers at their homes, and he described an area where three law enforcement officers live.

According to court records, Torke later told Prairie Lakes personnel the gun belonged to his cousin, and he had borrowed it for protection. He said he fired after he thought shots had been fired at him.

In 42 years in the newspaper industry, Linda Vanderwerf has worked at several daily newspapers in Minnesota, including the Mesabi Daily News, now called the Mesabi Tribune in Virginia. Previously, she worked for the Las Cruces Sun-News in New Mexico and the Rapid City Journal in the Black Hills of South Dakota. She has been a reporter at the West Central Tribune for nearly 27 years.

Vanderwerf can be reached at email: lvanderwerf@wctrib.com or phone 320-214-4340
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