Outside detective testifies DL cop may not have struck a punch in bar fight
A hearing was held this past Friday, May 11, on the misdemeanor disorderly conduct charge filed against longtime Detroit Lakes Police Sgt. Robert Strand.
Strand, 40, was charged with one count of misdemeanor disorderly conduct, brawling or fighting after an off-duty run-in with a man at a Detroit Lakes bar on Dec. 24, 2017. The man, Blake Sundvor, 35, of rural Detroit Lakes, is a convicted felon who'd been the subject of Strand's police investigations over the last decade. Sundvor is facing a similar misdemeanor charge with regard to the same incident, but is being tried separately.
The criminal investigation and prosecution of this case were assigned to Clay County for routine conflict of interest reasons.
Strand's attorney, Robert Fowler, filed a motion for dismissal of the charge at Friday's hearing.
One witness was called to give corroborating testimony: Detective Jason Hicks of the Clay County Sheriff's Office, who was the chief investigator assigned to the case.
Upon being questioned by Fowler, Detective Hicks said that after having an opportunity to do a careful, frame-by-frame analysis of the video taken at the scene of the altercation between Sgt. Strand and Mr. Sundvor, he found that he was no longer sure of his findings in the initial report he had given: Though he had initially concluded that it appeared Sgt. Strand had punched Mr. Sundvor after being confronted by him, he said that while the video wasn't clear enough to make a definitive determination, Strand's motions in the video "were consistent with" the tactics police officers were taught to use in restraining a suspect.
Hicks also said that they were unable to obtain reliable corroborating statements from any witnesses to the incident other than the two men involved, as when they were brought in to give their statements, the purported witnesses said they either hadn't had a clear view of the two men, or were too intoxicated at the time of the incident to be able to recall exactly what had happened after a few months had passed.
Following Hicks' testimony, and taking inventory of all the evidence submitted by both Fowler and Clay County Special Prosecutor Pam Harris, Judge Mark Hansen said he would make a ruling on the petition for dismissal once he had a chance to review all of the evidence, testimony, and letter briefs submitted by the attorneys.
He assured both Harris and Fowler that he did not intend to keep them waiting long, but no further hearings would be scheduled until he had made a determination on whether to proceed with the case, or grant Fowler's motion.