Minneapolis police officer charged with sex abuse
MINNEAPOLIS - A Minneapolis police officer used the Internet to prey on at least four girls, telling one 14-year-old that he "likes girls your age," according to a criminal complaint filed Friday.
Bradley James Schnickel, 32, plied a 13-year-old girl with vodka last year and had sex with her in his car, the complaint said. He persuaded another girl to send a pair of nude pictures of herself, after which he drove to her apartment and masturbated in front of her in his car, the complaint said.
Schnickel, arrested Wednesday, was charged with three counts of attempted or actual third-degree sexual conduct and three counts of engaging in sexually explicit online chats with a minor. The charges carry a maximum penalty of 46½ years in prison and a $105,000 fine.
Police spokesman Stephen McCarty said Schnickel, a five-year veteran of the Minneapolis Police Department, was no longer employed as of Friday.
"As far as whether he was fired or resigned, that's not being disclosed," McCarty said. "There's a union process that has to be fulfilled first."
Schnickel's defense attorney, Fred Bruno, was traveling Friday and did not immediately return a phone message or email seeking comment. A message was also left at Schnickel's home in Andover.
Authorities began investigating about three weeks ago after Brooklyn Center police learned a then-unidentified Andover man had used social media to send inappropriate messages to a girl.
Schnickel didn't know the girls when he initiated contact through chat websites, nor did he tell them he was a police officer, Anoka County Sheriff's Cmdr. Paul Sommer said. Schnickel reached out to a number of girls, and then used their lists of contacts to strike up conversations with their friends, Sommer said.
In one case, a girl who is now 14 told investigators she began chatting last summer with someone named "Brady" who said he was 22. She said the chats turned sexual, and three months later, she sneaked out of her home to meet the man. She said they drove for a while, and then Schnickel got her drunk on vodka and had sex with her.
Another alleged victim said Schnickel sent her 15 pictures of his genitals and asked for sex at least 50 times. She said she never met him until he suddenly appeared at her bus stop a few months later, asking what police were inquiring about and telling her to "deny, deny, deny everything."
Schnickel told another girl through Facebook chats he was 23 years old, the complaint said.
One alleged victim "kept telling the defendant that she was only 14 and the defendant responded by saying he 'likes girls your age,' " according to the complaint. The victim said Schnikel told her he liked girls as young as 12 and that he wanted to take her virginity.
He asked her "for sex so many times she can't put a number on it," the complaint said.
A judge on Friday set bail for Schnickel at $500,000 with no conditions of release, or $250,000 with the condition that he not contact any girls, according to the Anoka County Attorney's Office. He is scheduled to be arraigned March 6.
Authorities have reviewed about 3,000 pages of the 9,000 pages of documentation in the case. Investigators continued to comb through the rest of the documents and said more charges could be forthcoming.
"This case remains wide open," Paul Young, the assistant Anoka County Attorney, said.
Schnickel could also face charges in Hennepin County.
Chuck Laszewski, a spokesman for the Hennepin County Attorney's office, said prosecutors there had received a file on Schnickel and were asked to investigate further. He said he didn't know how many alleged victims were described in that file.
Dinesh Ramde can be reached at dramde(at)ap.org.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.