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Two Olivet pastors face DUI charges

Fargo police arrested two Olivet Lutheran Church pastors Thursday on suspicion of drunken driving, an incident their bishop called a painfully public mistake.

The Rev. Kristopher M. Gorden, 44, 1002 Park Drive S., was turning from 25th Street South onto the eastbound ramp of Interstate 94 around 1 a.m. Thursday when he slid into a snowbank and got stuck, Sgt. Mark Lykken said.

After police had already arrived at the scene, the Rev. Jeffery Sandgren, 50, 3317 Parkview Lane S., also pulled up to help Gorden get out of the snowbank and had contact with police, Lykken said.

Both men were arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence and were taken to the Cass County Jail. Sandgren bailed out at 3:20 a.m. and Gorden at 5:41 a.m., according to a jail official.

Lykken said police could not say if breath tests were performed or what blood-alcohol levels were measured if they were.

Sandgren and Gorden both told police they were employed by Olivet Lutheran Church, Lykken said. The church's website lists them as two of the four pastors who serve there.

On Thursday afternoon, Sandgren was reached by phone at his Fargo home and declined to comment.

Also on Thursday afternoon, a woman who answered the phone at Gorden's residence said he did not want to comment.

Bishop Bill Rindy of the Eastern North Dakota Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America released a written statement saying the arrests are a reminder "that we all share in the brokenness of humanity."

"These two servants of God serve the people of Olivet Lutheran very well, yet have made mistakes of a painfully public nature," Rindy's statement said.

Rindy's statement also said the allegations "are not consistent with behavior expected of pastors in our church, nor is it reflective of their ministry at Olivet and in this community. I will work with the congregation and these pastors so that appropriate followup and care will take place."

After the statement was released, Rindy did not return a phone message asking if the pastors could lose their posts if the allegations prove to be true.

A woman who answered the phone at Olivet Lutheran on Thursday morning said church officials would have no comment.

A third person, Kayla Dronen, 25, of 4014 3rd St. S. in Moorhead, was also arrested on suspicion of drunken driving after she arrived at the I-94 on-ramp at 1:20 a.m.

Though he initially said the pastors knew her, Lykken later said that wasn't the case.

"It appears she just happened to be going by," he said.

Other than accidents, it's rare for three drivers to be arrested at the same scene for driving under the influence, Lykken said.

"I don't recall three in Fargo this way before," he said.