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Being a good Samaritan gets 84-year-old Fargo man arrested

The 84-year-old Fargo man who says he had no idea the pedestrian he offered a ride to on Tuesday night, would an hour later, be arrested and charged with felony theft.1 / 2
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FARGO - The 84-year-old behind the wheel Tuesday while police claim a 25-year-old was stealing cash at five area gas stations in a span of a little more than an hour said he had no idea what the suspect was doing when inside the stores.

"He just said he needed a ride to his apartment," said Einar Swanson of Fargo in an interview Thursday.

Swanson called himself "a good Samaritan" who noticed the theft suspect looked cold and agreed to give him a ride. He seemed like "an honest fellow," Swanson said.

"Then he said he needed to stop for cigarettes, and then a shake, and then candy, stuff like that ... I figured it out after the fifth stop, but I guess it was a little late." Swanson said.

Moorhead, Minn., police aren't so sure. Swanson may face criminal charges based on inconsistencies between what he told officers and what their own investigation has turned up, Lt. Tory Jacobson said Thursday.

After police converged on the pair at about 5 p.m. Tuesday in the 900 block of 18th Avenue South in Moorhead, Swanson and 25-year-old Abdi Abdullahi were both questioned in connection with the thefts.

Abdullahi was charged with felony theft in Cass County District Court on Wednesday for allegedly grabbing $580 at the M&H convenience store at 16th Street and Main Avenue in Fargo when the clerk opened the till to give him change for a soda. He also faces misdemeanor theft charges in Clay County for alleged thefts from four Moorhead stores.

Swanson was questioned by police and released, pending a review by prosecutors, police said Wednesday.

While at the final store in the alleged theft spree, the Holiday at 3475 28th Ave. S., a store clerk came out and told him to stay put.

Swanson said when his passenger came out, "he said, 'Let's get out of here,' and I didn't," he said, until the store clerk came out to tell them they could leave.

Shortly thereafter, Swanson said, they were stopped by about 20 law enforcement vehicles, faced with officers with guns drawn. He said had never had a gun pointed at him before.

"It's really taken a toll on me. I'm just really sorry it's ever happened," said Swanson, who said he was unaware police were still considering charges. "I hope and pray that never happens."

Swanson's subsequent worries are also taking a toll. He spent the night after his arrest at his daughter-in-law's house, then went back to the Moorhead Police Department to retrieve his car.

When he returned home to his apartment, he found a note stuck on the door telling him his rental property owners, Goldmark Management, were evicting him due the Tuesday incident.

As of Thursday, Swanson said, Goldmark had retracted the eviction on the understanding he wouldn't be charged. Now, he doesn't know what will happen.

"Maybe I should have signed up for that apartment I looked at yesterday," he said.

Goldmark officials could not be immediately reached for comment.

Swanson said he's headed back to church services tonight at Trinity Lutheran, where he's done charity work with the homeless for many years. But he said he's done giving rides.

"I'm just too good a Samaritan," he said. "I'll never do anything that way again."