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Updated: Sebeka police chief suspended after being cited for domestic assault

Chief of the Sebeka Police Department Eric Swenson has been suspended with pay by the city following his citation for domestic assault, which may violate Swenson’s probation for a prior misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct.

Sebeka Deputy Mayor Lowell Stewart said Monday that Swenson was suspended on the advice of Sebeka City Attorney Jeff Pederson until “resolution of the issues that are on the table.”

Another Sebeka city official said that a special city council meeting was scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday, July 15 in the council chambers in order to deliberate the matter.

According to an incident narrative compiled by the Wadena County Sheriff’s Office, just before 7 p.m. on May 7 a witness at the Huntersville Outpost bar called the sheriff’s office to report that Swenson was “drunk and belligerent”, shouting obscenities with families and children present. The deputy assigned to respond to the call was diverted to deal with an unrelated restraining order violation, and by the time the deputy arrived at the bar at 9:42 p.m., Swenson had already left.

The deputy interviewed a member of the staff who said that Swenson was drunk at the bar when they arrived at work at around 3:30 p.m. The staff person said that Swenson was using obscene language, and that a racial slur was also used during the incident. The staff person said that Swenson was about to be ejected from the bar when the bar’s owners, who had been informed of the situation, came to give Swenson a ride home.

A second bar employee said Swenson’s behavior was not out of line, although he may have offended some people. The deputy noted that while he was interviewing the bar staff, he was told that Swenson had called the bar trying to talk to him, but the bartender would not allow it.

Wadena County court documents said that Swenson was charged with disorderly conduct, and after appearing before Seventh District Court Judge Jay D. Carlson on June 17, Swenson pled guilty to the misdemeanor charge and was sentenced to 30 days in jail stayed for 1 year of probation, as well as $190 in fines and fees.

According to Ottertail County court documents, he was later cited for 5th degree domestic assault in an offense allegedly occurring in Blowers Township at around 1:30 a.m. June 28. Swenson was released from custody later that day. Conditions for his release were paying $10,000 cash or bond without conditions, or paying $3,000 in bond or $300 cash and adhering to the conditions that he remain law abiding, shall not leave the state without the court’s prior approval, shall have no contact with alleged assault victim, make all required court appearances and shall not possess firearms.

On Monday, the Seventh District Court issued a summons for Swenson to appear in court in order to answer to allegations he violated his probation for the disorderly conduct charge.

Swenson is Sebeka’s only full-time police officer, Stewart said. As of Thursday, non-emergency calls to the Sebeka Police Department’s office were being routed to the Wadena County Sheriff’s Office.

WCCO reported in November of 2010 that Swenson was suspended previously for a week without pay as well as ordered by the city council to undergo a course in professionalism and police ethics. The 2010 suspension followed several incidents that year, including one in which a police report said Swenson responded to a domestic disturbance call smelling of alcohol.

The Fergus Falls Journal reported in October 2010 that Swenson called the Ottertail County Sheriff’s Office to report police equipment stolen from his home. Swenson called back several days later saying he had found the items: without his knowledge, one of his children had taken the equipment and moved it to a homemade fort in the backyard. The items included loaded magazines for both a Glock 9mm handgun and an AR-15 rifle; stun grenades, gas grenades, gas shotgun rounds and night vision goggles.

The Wadena Pioneer Journal reported later that month that Swenson said the media got the misplaced equipment story wrong. He said that none of the items were found in the fort, but the night vision goggles were found under the bed of his then-9-year-old son. The stun grenades were found in the attic, he said.

"I did the right thing by reporting it," he said. "And now I'm getting crucified for it."

Previously, the PJ reported in April 2007 that then-Sebeka Police Chief Norm Pettis resigned his post following allegations he falsely reported on his time card being on duty for the Sebeka Police Department when he was actually doing a shift as a bailiff for the Wadena County Courthouse. Pettis said he wrote the correct information on his time card.

An attempt was made by the Pioneer Journal to contact Swenson at his office, but he was unavailable due to the suspension. 

Zach Kayser, Wadena Pioneer Journal

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