He was facing a minimum of seven years for the conviction — but died before he was ever sentenced.
A North Dakota man killed himself in court on Monday moments after hearing a guilty verdict.
Jeffrey Sahl Ferris, 54, had been accused of chasing a group of minors near his home in his car while armed with a gun. But just minutes after a jury at the Federal Courthouse in Fargo had returned its verdict, Ferris grabbed an envelope opener and slashed his own throat.
According to witnesses, U.S. Marshals wrestled him to the floor; emergency crews were immediately summoned to the courthouse, but they were unable to save him.
The incident happened just seconds after the jury had been escorted out. According to Native News Online, U.S. District Judge Peter Welte had just denied Ferris's request to be released for 24 hours before returning to jail.
Witnesses said he had requested to be released until sentencing, which was refused, before he asked for one day to sort out a child care situation, which was also refused. That's when he grabbed the blade.
"The guy turned around and you could see the inside of his neck. He had slit his neck with some object... don't know if it was plastic or what it was. One of the other attorneys in there said it looked like a pen, but his attorney said it looked like a scalpel," one witness told Valley News Live.
Witnesses said he was fidgeting with his neck right before the guilty verdict was read out. The weapon was initially reported to have been with a pen or shank, but witnesses later confirmed it was an envelope opener.
"There was blood all over the walls in the courtroom, and the marshals had wrestled him to the floor," one witness said. "You could hear him screaming, 'I can't breathe.'"
Ferris, a former emergency medical technician, had faced charges of assault with a deadly weapon, reckless endangerment, terrorizing, and using a firearm in a violent felony, stemming from an incident that occurred on the Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation in May of 2019.
He had been chasing a group of seven youths away from an abandoned house near his home, driving his Jeep after them at "excessive speeds" — nearly hitting them — all while in possession of a 9mm handgun.
One of the youths, who was riding a dirt bike, crashed and fell off. Ferris got out of his vehicle, pointed his gun at the youth, and threatened to kill them if they ever returned.
Ferris was facing a minimum of seven years for the conviction — but died before he was ever sentenced.
"I can't remember the last time an event like this happened where somebody was able to smuggle in some contraband into a federal courtroom and die of a self-inflicted wound. Very, very, very odd. Very unusual," FBI spokesman Kevin Smith told Inforum after the incident. "We will take our time to get to the bottom of it."