Sheriff’s office recognizes hard work, heroism

From a detective helping to solve a murder case to uncovering a human trafficking ring and deputies and citizens working together to save the life of a person who ran off the road, there were many stories of hard work and heroism at the annual Anoka County Sheriff’s Office awards ceremony Feb. 27.

Sheriff James Stuart said as the public goes about their daily lives, there are deputies responding to a car crash, burglary, domestic incident, robbery call, and much more. Meanwhile, detectives are investigating cases further to find those responsible for criminal acts.

Anoka County Sheriff James Stuart (at podium) shared many stories of hard work and heroism at the annual sheriff’s office awards ceremony Feb. 27 in Andover. Photos by Eric Hagen

Anoka County Sheriff James Stuart (at podium) shared many stories of hard work and heroism at the annual sheriff’s office awards ceremony Feb. 27 in Andover. Photos by Eric Hagen

We won’t hear every story, but the sheriff’s office has an awards policy so that those who go above and beyond the call of duty can be recognized. In total, 17 office commendations, seven medals of merit, six Citizen Awards of Merit, and three Citizen Awards of Honor were distributed at the Feb. 27 awards ceremony at the sheriff’s office in Andover.

“So to every staff member of our office, whether receiving an award today or not, thank you,” Stuart said.

Office commendations

Sean Fenton, detention deputy, in January 2013 noticed some unusual behavior amongst known leaders of the Native Mob street gang, which is a violent Native American gang known for terrorizing people in the Twin cities and on reservations throughout Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Fenton believed these inmates were violating a no communication order from the U.S. Marshal Service. He discovered a series of notes and letters hidden in a paper towel dispenser in a jail bathroom. This evidence was ultimately forwarded to federal prosecutors and helped in the prosecution of three of the gang leaders in a conspiracy case.

Detective Michael Lapham headed the investigation on the murder of an 18-year-old St. Paul woman whose body was found in the back seat of a vehicle after it had been impounded in Columbia Heights Feb. 21, 2013.

Lapham coordinated with multiple law enforcement agencies to interview more than 100 witnesses from law enforcement, the community and the victim’s family.

A male suspect was arrested and eventually indicted on a first-degree murder charge by a grand jury. He has since been linked to another murder in Minnesota and is being investigated for multiple others in Chicago.

Detective Patrick Nelson was recognized for his investigation of a sexual assault and kidnapping case that occurred in April 2013. According to Stuart, two men approached a woman who was waiting for a bus by Northtown Mall in Blaine and became aggressive with her and followed her on the bus.

The suspects threatened her with a taser to make her get off the bus with them. Once they were off the bus, they sexually assaulted her outside and inside a vehicle. The suspects were identified through the bus video surveillance and arrested. The case has been referred to the Anoka County Attorney’s Office for possible charges.

Deputy Thomas Kvam between Sept. 27 and Nov. 11, 2013 arrested nine people during five traffic stops in East Bethel that resulted in the seizure of a significant amount of meth, heroin, mushrooms, marijuana, prescription pills, a stolen vehicle, a handgun and $21,000 cash.

Cmdr. Dave Pacholl was a leader in the sheriff’s office efforts to research and implement a new public safety data system that will benefit everyone who works in the fields of law enforcement, dispatch or fire fighting.

The sheriff’s office in October 2012 received a report of two juvenile females in Fridley being solicited into prostitution. The investigation uncovered a human trafficking ring amongst multiple states in the Midwest and the western United States.

Detectives Thomas Strusinski and Michael Schantzen combed through over 10,000 pages of business records, cell phone records, financial records and Internet information. They traveled throughout the Midwest often after hours and over weekends to further the investigation.

They worked closely with many victims to get them to safety and help them get their lives back on track, but kept them on board with the prosecution of the case.

Both suspects received lengthy prison sentences for their crimes. Detectives Strusinski and Schantzen were recognized by the Anoka County Attorney’s Office, the Alexandra House, and other law enforcement for their efforts. The United States Attorney’s Office will be using the case as a model for trafficking investigations in instructing law classes.

When Scott Henderson was hired in the spring of 2013 to be head the latent print section of the sheriff’s office forensics laboratory, there was a backlog of nearly 300 cases and a turnaround time of more than 300 days. Time-saving processes he implemented have reduced the backlog to about 20 cases with a turnaround time of 40 days for cases involving only latent print examinations.

Deputy Jon Mathisen and former deputy Jon Schliesing, ow a Minneapolis Police Officer, used an automated external defibrillator to save the life of a 58-year-old Andover man.

Deputies Michael Jorgensen, Steven Strecker, and Patrick Ferraro May 24, 2013 rescued a man who had jumped off the Pleasant Street bridge into the Rum River after the Anoka Police Department attempted to arrest him because of several warrants.

The man floated downstream within 100 feet of the Anoka Rum River Dam, but refused to grab a safety ring thrown to him. Ferraro carefully steered the boat next to this man so Jorgensen and Strecker could grab ahold of him as Ferraro drove the boat to shore where Anoka police officers and other deputies waited.

Detention deputy Shannon Coulter performed the Heimlich maneuver to save a choking inmate.

Deputy Christopher Pierro received a medal of merit from the sheriff’s office for jumping into an icy pond April 11, 2013 to rescue a man whose vehicle had run off the road near the intersection of Bunker Lake and Crosstown boulevards in Andover.

Citizens help police

Joey and Rohan Murdock Dec. 31, 2013 saw a vehicle run off Hanson Boulevard. The brothers went to the vehicle and found that the female driver appeared to be unconscious and there was a young child in the back seat.

When they could not wake her up by pounding on the window, they kicked out a rear window to gain access and quickly bundled up the young child while calling 911.

Deputy Troy Edmond was the first to arrive and worked with Joey to remove the lady from the vehicle so he could administer CPR. Deputy Robert Young arrived and used an AED to deliver a shock. Deputy Peter Grover arrived and helped Edmond with CPR and was able to get her breathing again as they were in an ambulance.

Joey and Rohan had recognized the vehicle that went off the road as coming from one of their neighbor’s homes. They assisted deputies in locating the parents of the female victim’s fianacé and they located the child’s grandmother so someone could care for the child.

The female victim was subsequently released from the hospital and is making a full recovery.

Deputies Edmond, Grover and Young received office commendations while Joey and Rohan were bestowed a Citizen Award of Merit. Rohan was unable to attend the ceremony because of his duties with the United States Army.

Sheriff’s office deputies Sean Merritt, Donald Koenig, Travis Bolles and Roland Sorenson, along with Blaine police officers Russ Clark and Gordon Fiske and citizens Alex Baker and Christopher Beedle, dispensed 20 fire extinguishers to put out a vehicle fire that had been involved in a head-on crash on Lexington Avenue in Ham Lake June 5, 2013. They were then able to rescue a driver who had been trapped in one of the vehicles.

The law enforcement officers were awarded Medals of Merit. Baker and Beedle received Citizen Awards of Honor.

Tracey Stoeckel, Alysia Schwartz-Chouinard, Alyssa Emery all work in the medical field, and Timothy Olson is a retired Minneapolis firefighter. The occupants of a pick-up truck and an SUV were lucky these four people were traveling on 221st Avenue near the railroad tracks in Oak Grove the afternoon of Aug. 20, 2013 because their expertise was critical before deputies and firefighters arrived. They each received Citizen Awards of Merit.

On a June afternoon last year, Jolynn Chileen had seen a neighbor fishing off her dock along Coon Lake. Some time after she had turned away, she heard her neighbor’s dog barking and turned around to see this woman had fallen off her chair and face-down into the water.

Chileen entered the water and pulled the woman out of the lake while yelling for others to call 911. She did chest compressions to force water out of her mouth and she was revived.

Eric Hagen is at [email protected]

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