Judge refuses to grant restraining orders to Strand, Sundvor
No restraining orders for either one of them. That was the ruling for the Detroit Lakes police officer and the man he'd arrested in the past. The two got into a Christmas Eve bar fight, and both filed for harassment restraining orders against the other, but the judge in the case shut both of them down. Sergeant Robert Strand and Blake Sundvor, who first clashed more than a decade ago when Strand arrested Sundvor on allegations of swindling, had each made allegations of harassment and stalker-like behavior against the other, with alleged incidents going back to the time of that first arrest and continuing throughout other arrests and convictions of Sundvor.
The two appeared at a civil hearing on the matter at the Becker County Courthouse Friday morning, with District Court Judge Mark Hansen out of Otter Tail County presiding.
The restraining order case was heard separately from the ongoing criminal case regarding Strand and Sundvor's Dec. 24 bar fight at Hub 41 in Detroit Lakes. Both men were charged with misdemeanor disorderly conduct, brawling or fighting as a result of that incident.
At the Friday morning hearing, which had been a continuation from two previous hearings, Judge Hansen heard the testimony of two witnesses called by Strand's attorney, Robert Fowler.
Fowler called on former Detroit Lakes Police Chief Tim Eggebraaten and Lakes Sports Shop owner Doug Paskey to give testimony on Strand's behalf. Sundvor, who is representing himself in the case, was not physically present for the hearing but was able to question the witnesses via conference call.
Eggebraaten testified that, despite Sundvor's claims that Strand has gone "above and beyond" in attempts to harass and target him, he had found no evidence to back up those claims, or that Sergeant Strand had ever had contact with Sundvor for anything that did not involve an ongoing criminal investigation or "for a law enforcement purpose."
When Sundvor asked whether Eggebraaten recalled a time when he had come into the former police chief's office to talk with him about Strand having contacted Sundvor's girlfriend "inappropriately," Eggebraaten said he didn't recall the conversation.
When Sundvor prompted him by asking whether he had come into Eggebraaten's office alone, or with someone else — specifically, Anthony Mastin — Eggebraaten said again that he didn't recall that conversation.
"That's very convenient," Sundvor said, but didn't question Eggebraaten further about the alleged conversation.
Paskey's testimony surrounded a specific incident where Sundvor was accused of harassing Strand. Paskey recalled having asked Strand do some work on repaving the parking lot of his business, Lakes Sports Shop.
On the day in question, Strand was in the sports shop parking lot talking with Paskey when Paskey observed a pickup truck driving past, and heard the driver yelling some things at Strand as he passed by.
"'Fan of yours?'" I asked him," Paskey said, adding that Strand's response was, "No" — but that he would most likely be coming back.
Sure enough, Paskey saw the same truck come back a short time later; the driver parked across the street from the sports shop and approached the parking lot on foot, questioning Strand about whether his truck, which was parked at the business, had all of the required license stickers that it should.
"He seemed to be pretty heated," Paskey said of Sundvor's behavior, but added that the man did not attempt to cross the barriers that had been placed around the parking lot in anticipation of the paving.
Paskey said Strand responded to Sundvor's accusations verbally, stating simply that his truck was parked on private property and Sundvor's accusations were therefore not applicable.
"He (Strand) didn't respond to him much at all," Paskey said, adding that Strand's behavior appeared quite calm in contrast to Sundvor's obvious agitation.
Sundvor's cross examination mainly centered on whether there had been a physical confrontation during the incident — Paskey said no — and whether he, Sundvor, had been a good customer at Paskey's business in the past, to which he responded, "yes."
After hearing the testimony of the witnesses, Hansen allowed both Fowler and Sundvor to make brief summary statements regarding their respective cases.
"My client never sought out Mr. Sundvor for any type of confrontation," Fowler said, other than with regard to an official investigation or law enforcement matter.
In fact, Fowler said, it was Sundvor who had sought out Strand.
"Mr. Sundvor's claims come down to this," Fowler added. "There is nothing in the record that indicates any harassment of Mr. Strand toward Mr. Sundvor. It's been an entirely one-way street (i.e., Sundvor confronting Strand rather than the other way around)."
He also noted that the incidents have been "escalating," and had, with regard to the Christmas Eve incident, ultimately resulted in violence.
Sundvor, for his part, agreed that the incidents had been escalating, and stated that he had asked Eggebraaten to ensure that Strand not be involved in any future investigations involving him.
As for the Christmas Eve incident, Sundvor said that, as an officer, Strand "had an obligation that night — to leave" without getting into a physical confrontation with him.
After hearing all of the evidence and closing statements, Hansen said that he had "put aside the rule of evidence" with regard to this case, in order to hear everything that both men "thought I should hear" — but even with the relaxed restrictions, he found there was insufficient evidence to grant a restraining order to either party.
He dismissed both petitions, stating that he didn't feel the evidence presented by either party was sufficient to meet the statutory requirements for the granting of a court order.
"These two men clearly have a long history of disagreements, unpleasantness and arguments between them," Judge Hansen said, but added, "I don't believe either party has a reasonable fear for their safety or security with regard to the other... I don't think this rises to the statutory level."
He further stated that he would "make no findings" with regard to the credibility of witnesses called in the case, and that his findings would have no bearing on the pending criminal investigation, which is a separate matter.
In response to Hansen dismissing the restraining order filed by his client, Fowler said, "It's fine. I respect that. Our main goal was to make sure Blake wasn't issued a restraining order (against Strand), because he's not entitled to one."
Fowler added, "All of his harassment claims (against Strand) relate to incidents where he (Sundvor) was alleged to have broken the law, or was under investigation."
Sundvor, also known as Blake Mastin, has been convicted of several scams in Becker County and also duped a Twin Cities TV station into doing a story on him after he falsely claimed to be the one who figured out how to cap the massive 2010 BP spill on the gulf coast.
He publicly alleged he was punched by Strand at the Hub 41 restaurant in Detroit Lakes on Dec. 23, 2017, when Strand was off duty. The criminal investigation and prosecution was conducted by Clay County for routine conflict of interest reasons; both Sundvor and Strand were charged with disorderly conduct as a result of that investigation.
A hearing on the criminal case against Strand was held Friday afternoon. Following testimony by Detective Jason Hicks, the lead investigator on Strand's case, Judge Hansen said that he would rule on the motion filed by Fowler to dismiss the charges against Strand once he had had a chance to review the evidence submitted, and the summary briefs presented by Fowler and special prosecutor Pam Harris, the Clay County attorney who was assigned to the case. A full report on the hearing will be published later this weekend.