No charges filed for curfew events after May 30 demonstration

Mike Mastin for web.jpg

BEMIDJI -- An independent investigation was recently performed by the Brainerd Police Department to look into the events of May 30 , when social media swarmed with questions and rumors regarding buses of protesters, potential dumpster fires and citizen patrols after a local curfew was enacted.

The case was then reviewed by the Crow Wing County Attorney -- to avoid conflict of interest -- who declined to prosecute the case.

“At this time, I am declining prosecution as I do not see where a crime was committed,” said Donald Ryan, Crow Wing County Attorney. “As a Chief Law Enforcement Office staffing the (Emergency Operations Center), Sheriff Beitel had the authority to act in the way he did.”

In a June 16 letter to the Bemidji City Attorney’s Office, Ryan laid out the events of the evening.

“On May 30, 2020 at 8 p.m. the curfew went into effect. Prior to that time local law enforcement put out a mutual aid request to surrounding agencies. At 8 p.m., several of those who responded were at the Bemidji Firehall. Several concerned citizens offering to help if they could were present with said officers,” he said.


“Upon being informed of the individuals willing to assist, Sheriff Beitel directed these individuals to locations to watch for buses of anticipated protestors coming into Bemidji. If anything was witnessed, these individuals were to call the EOC. Sheriff Beitel intended for these individuals to be outside the city limits of Bemidji. Regardless, this also was in compliance with Section 2.C. of the curfew order.”

Bemidji Police Chief Mastin issued a response to the decision on Friday morning. He outlined the justification for the exemption and admitted that while he feels he made a poor decision on the night of May 30, they stemmed from good intentions.

“I’m not afraid to admit when I made a poor decision, and this was one of those times," he said. "On this evening the situation was fluid and rapidly evolving. Sheriff Beitel and I were handling large amounts of information and trying to do our best.

"State Representative Grossell’s offer regarding citizens that wanted to help came at the same time we received information regarding a bus of individuals traveling to our city with ill intent. Rep. Grossell was informed he could station these individuals to watch for this bus and inform us if it arrived. This allowed citizens to participate in keeping our city safe while keeping licensed peace officers available to respond when needed.”

He reiterated that at no point were citizens recruited to actively patrol the streets of Bemidji.

“This is a duty that will always remain a function of licensed peace officers or through authorized organizations such as the Beltrami County Sheriff’s Posse or the Bemidji Police Departments Reserve Officer programs,” Mastin explained.

“Although my intentions were good I now recognize that this decision has left some members of our community feeling unsafe and further marginalized, for that I apologize,” he said. “Moving forward, I assure you that I will consider how my decisions affect everyone.”

Mastin said the core of this issue involves citizens who want to participate in the safety of our community.


"Fundamentally, I believe that we all want to live in a safe community. I have often said that the police cannot do this alone, we need our community to be engaged and participate in promoting safety and security. This ideology is the foundation of community policing," he said. "My hope is that we can build relationships of trust with all community members and groups that will allow for meaningful communication that promotes safety and security."

Hannah Olson is a multimedia reporter for the Pioneer covering education, Indigenous-centric stories and features.
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