Detroit Lakes Police Sergeant Not Guilty
Carol McCarthy | Jan 26, 2019 AT 1:48 pm
DETROIT LAKES, MN—A Detroit Lakes Police officer on paid administrative leave for over a year is finally cleared of a misdemeanor charge after a three-day jury trial. Friday, Sergeant Robert Strand was found not guilty of a disorderly conduct charge by a Becker County jury.
The charge stemmed from an incident just after midnight, December 24th, 2017 at the Hub 41 bar in Detroit Lakes involving 41 year old Strand, who was off-duty, and 36 year old Blake Sundvor. The two men have a history that dates back to 2007 when Officer Strand was involved in a criminal investigation of Sundvor. That night in 2017 at the bar things came to a head as Sundvor initiated an altercation that appeared to start verbally and ended physically with Sundvor shoving Stand followed by a scuffle where Sundvor landed a couple punches to Strand’s face. Video surveillance in the bar caught the incident and throughout the trial jurors were able to watch the incident, which lasted less than two minutes in real time, frame by frame over two days.
The jury of three women and three men took about two hours to deliberate Friday afternoon before returning with the not-guilty verdict.
In an interview following the trial, Strand’s attorney, Robert Fowler, said his client, Robert Strand, is eager and anxious to get back the work and put this behind him. “He loves to work for the Detroit Lakes community.”
Fowler also took the opportunity to thank District 7 Judge Mark Hansen who he said was incredibly fair throughout the trial process and was a pleasure to work with him. He also said he was impressed with prosecutor Alex Stock, who was assigned to the case by the Clay County Attorney’s Office, and complimented Stock on his professionalism during the trial. Fowler also thanked the seven members of the jury, six members and an alternate, for their time and consideration over the course of the three-day trial.
Fowler said the negative hanging over the case is that Strand was even charged in the incident.
To avoid any conflict of interest the case involving an off-duty Detroit Lakes police officer it was turned over by the Becker County Sheriff’s Office to Clay County. For whatever reason, Fowler says, acting Clay County Attorney Pamela Foss, following the investigation by Clay County Detective Jason Hicks, disregarded Detective Hicks’ recommendation to solely charge Sundvor with assault.
Fowler says this incident didn't have to get to the courts. Sundvor and Strand have a storied past following one investigation in 2007. Fowler says Strand was targeted because he is a police officer. Watching the surveillance video from the night at the bar frame by frame the evidence was crystal clear that Sundvor was fixated on Strand.
Fowler said now it’s a recorded fact Robert Strand was never guilty. He says the question also remains why the city chose to put the officer on paid leave for a year and a month for a misdemeanor, and not even guilty. There was no legal basis. “It was a very wasteful decision,” he said.
Fowler says he plans to send the City of Detroit Lakes a letter Monday requesting Sergeant Strand be taken off leave and allowed back to work, immediately.