Gunfire after chase of sex offense suspect reviewed

By Louis Hoglund and Tom Hintgen, Otter Tail County Correspondent

An investigative report says the discharge of a firearm by an Otter Tail County sheriff deputy in the Anthony Randklev incident on July 22 was justified.

Anthony Randklev

Randklev, 39, of Pelican Rapids, was taken into custody near Erhard, following an abduction, rape, and high speed chase. He was not injured and the woman who was abducted by Randklev was rescued by law enforcement.

About four shots were fired by one deputy, after the vehicle Randklev was driving was disabled and stopped after the chase, according to Otter Tail County Sheriff’s Dept. Lt. Keith Van Dyke.  The deputy was justified, based on the findings, in firing his weapon because Randklev’s actions raised concerns over protecting the officers, as well as the victim who was still in the vehicle, noted Van Dyke.

 The abductee had been taken from her home, north of Fergus Falls. The suspect then led law enforcement on a high-speed pursuit. The chase ended when the truck Randklev was driving  became stuck in a wetland near Erhard.

“His actions (suspect Randklev) dictated the response by the deputy,” said Van Dyke.

Officer-involved shootings require independent probe 

As a routine practice when weapons are fired by an officer, the case file had been forwarded to the Clay County, Moorhead, County Attorney office for review in order to have a completely independent assessment of the incident. Previously, the case had been reviewed by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.

A letter from Clay County submitted to Otter Tail County on Oct. 10 stated that the Otter Tail County sheriff deputy, in the Randklev case, “acted in accordance within his department’s policies.”

The letter further stated that the deputy’s actions were in the best interest of the victim of the kidnapping, other officers and the deputy himself.

“Officer-involved shootings are rare…I can only think of two times in Otter Tail,” said VanDyke, of his tenure here.  

“Standard protocol” is how Van Dyke described the independent, BCA investigation of shootings. “It takes the investigation out of our hands to an independent third party,” said Van Dyke. “Not only is the investigation independent, but the determination of criminal liabilities are also independent,”  he added, as the Clay County attorney’s office then reviewed the case after the state BCA.

Randklev remains in the Otter Tail County jail in lieu of $2 million bail. 

Randklev trial pending; question of how convict obtained gun remains  

Meanwhile, trial dates for Randklev remain pending.  “It’s still active, and we’re still following up on some things,” said Van Dyke. 

 One of the questions that he persued within the past week was one that has surfaced in the wake of the Randklev case:  As a sexual assault and violent crime convict, how did he acquire the gun he used in the July abduction-kidnapping? 

“We think we know where the gun came from, but we can’t prove it,” said Van Dyke, of the shotgun that Randklev used to force the victim into his vehicle. Authorities speculate that the shotgun was stolen.  “We have a theory.”  

Despite high profile cases; total crime not necessarily up, says Otter Tail lawman

Several widely publicized cases, including the abduction, lend the appearance that the crime is on the rise in Otter Tail County and the lakes area.  

“I really don’t feel the crime rate is up at all, even though it might ‘feel’ like it,” said VanDyke. 

However, offenses related specifically to drugs and mental health are increasingly confronting law enforcement. 

These issues also came to the surface during the recent campaign for Otter Tail Sheriff, between Chief Deputy Barry Fitzgibbons and Kile Bergren.  Both candidates stated that law enforcement 

“We have seen an influx in drugs–worse than I’ve ever seen it.  Drugs have flooded the area,” said Van Dyke. 

Drugs, combined with the sometimes related mental health issues, have “made it much more dangerous for the deputies out there.” 

“I don’t think society is doing enough to help these people. The state hospitals went away….There aren’t enough facilities and resources to deal with it,” said Van Dyke. “I don’t believe the crime rate is up, but the increase in mental health issues, …and throw in the availability of drugs, and it’s a bad combination.”  

Sex offender no longer in area

The Otter Tail County sheriff’s office announced last week that Level 3 predatory offender Andrew Kruft is longer living in the city of Pelican Rapids.

Andrew Kruft

“He has been committed back to the Department of Corrections (DOC) because of a violation of his conditions of release,” said County Sheriff Administrative Lt. Keith Van Dyke.

A predatory offender community notification meeting was held in Pelican Rapids on Aug. 27 when Kruft was released from confinement with the DOC.

After serving his jail sentence for criminal sexual assault, Kruft’s relocation to Pelican was one of the focal points of  the community notification meeting.  The meeting attracted a nearly full house at the Lake Region Electric meeting room. Also, the news that Kruft was released and living in the area followed only a month after another Level 3 offender, Anthony Randklev, abducted and raped a rural Fergus Falls woman in late July.  

Kruft lived in the Hillside apartment row, along Highway 59, for only about two months. 

Dozens of people voiced their frustration with the Department of Corrections and the judicial system over the release of high level sex offenders.  Residents of the Prairie Lake area were especially vocal, because the apartment units are in close proximity to residential areas–many homes with children and teens. 

 The Otter Tail County Board of Commissioners have also weighed in on this issue.

County sheriff officials and Brian Rubenstein of the Minnesota Department of Corrections spoke to county board members regarding notification of sexual predators who move into communities in Otter Tail County. 

Rubenstein submitted a Community Notification Act Fact Sheet and information about the Minnesota Predatory Offender Registry. 

“Offenders are under intense supervision and the local sheriff departments are responsible for notification, which can be last minute notice,” Rubenstein said. “That’s because the offenders may be denied housing and change their address right before being released.”

 He said that there is three percent recidivism for sex abuse cases. Rubenstein offered to hold an educational session on this topic.

The county board said it would request changes to legislation to improve the process.