National Association of Attorneys General

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AG Employee Spotlight

The jury delivers a guilty verdict to the defendant in a trial for a sexual crime against a minor and then the unthinkable happens-- the defendant pulls a gun out of his pants and aims at the prosecutor. That is the stuff of television police dramas like Law and Order but it was the reality for North Dakota Assistant Attorney General Jon Byers on Feb. 4. He jumped into action and tackled the defendant onto the floor until the sheriff came.

“Initially, I was in shock,” Byers explained. “ It was like watching a movie. When he [the gunman] was trying to put the bullet into the chamber then I figured it would be now or never.”

Byers’ quick instinct saved himself and everyone in the courtroom from a potentially tragic event. Word of his courageous act quickly spread throughout the Attorney General’s Office as agents from the Bureau of Criminal Investigation Unit were called to the scene.

“We all wonder how we might react in the face of danger. Without regard for his life, Jon used his own body as a shield and took down a gunman before anyone in the courtroom got hurt,” said North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem. “He is a respected attorney, prosecutor, advocate for victims of sexual abuse, and an exceptional public employee. I am proud to have Jon on my staff.”

Byers became a hometown hero, appearing on the local TV news and featured in the Bismarck Tribune. He was also honored by the North Dakota Legislative Assembly, which passed a resolution commending his quick thinking and action in protecting the public.

In spite of the praise, Byers remains humble and insists he had to act in order to protect everyone in the courtroom. The defendant will face additional criminal charges.

“I’m glad it turned out the way it did but I’m mostly glad about the jury’s verdict,” said Byers.

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