Detroit Lakes police chief: 'There was no opportunity for this party to carry out the threats'
After a 27-year-old Detroit Lakes man made threating statements about planning to "shoot up" Rossman Elementary School in Detroit Lakes to a probation officer on Nov. 9, the city police chief said the man was in-custody within 42 minutes and was under constant electronic and visual surveillance until he was apprehended. He added notifications were not warranted in this case because he didn't want to create undue alarm in the community for a situation that was under control and resolved within a matter of minutes.
Parents and others in Detroit Lakes were rattled when DL-Online reported Nov. 12 that a Detroit Lakes man had been charged with a felony for allegedly threatening to carry out a shooting at at Detroit Lakes elementary school.
Jeffrey Scott Gunderson, 27, of Detroit Lakes, was charged with one felony count of making terroristic threats in Becker County District Court .
"The safety of our children and our school district are of the utmost importance to me and all of my staff," said Detroit Lakes Police Chief Steven Todd. "Almost all of us are parents and there is nothing more important than keeping our kids safe."
Todd also provided a detailed timeline for the arrest, due to pushback within the school community about officials not being notified about the threat before details were made public via the criminal complaint filed in Becker County District Court.
"I think what's important for the public to know is the timeline," said Todd.
According to Todd, on Nov. 9, Gunderson was transported by the Minnesota Department of Corrections to a residence in Detroit Lakes, where he was to meet with his probation officer and be explained the home confinement procedures.
"It's kind of like a check-in, you're on this program with me, and here's the things you need to know and you need to do," said Todd. "At that same time, the probation officer installed a GPS ankle bracelet on the party."
After Gunderson received his monitoring device, he made the threats against the school to his probation officer, for which he was charged at the Becker County courthouse.
"That probation officer concluded his meeting with the party and he moved his car to a position where he could observe the house," he said, "and that's when he made the call to dispatch at 11:56 a.m."
According to Todd, the following, then, took place:
- 11:56 a.m., Gunderson's probation officer called dispatch.
- 11:58 a.m., a Detroit Lakes police officer was dispatched to Gunderson's temporary residence.
- 12:05 p.m., the Detroit Lakes police officer arrived at the residence.
- 12:13 p.m., Chief Todd received a phone call from the officer at the scene with a report and he also spoke to the probation officer. The phone call lasted 3 minutes.
- 12:16 p.m., Todd orders the arrest of Gunderson.
- 12:30 p.m., three additional Detroit Lakes police officers joined the first officer and the probation officer at the scene.
- 12:31 p.m., all four city police officers and the probation officer entered the residence.
- 12:38 p.m., Gunderson was taken into custody without incident and transported to the Becker County Jail.
"This all happened very quickly and there was no opportunity for this party to carry out the threats," said Todd. "He was on ankle bracelet monitoring, so if needed, the probation officer could open up his laptop and see exactly where this guy is."
He added the residence was also under constant visual surveillance by the probation officer and responding officers from when the threats were made until he was ultimately arrested.
He also said these are difficult decisions, but he needed to consider whether, or not, a public notification would create an undue alarm within the community for an under-control situation.
"In this situation, the party was arrested and in-custody so quickly that protective measures wouldn't change anything," said Todd. "There was no time to do a notification before the party was arrested because we arrested him so fast."
He also said he ultimately decided not to release a post-arrest public notification because the situation had been resolved and he didn't want to create that undue alarm.
"Now, I want you to contrast this situation with the one we had last week," said Todd.
The threats made against Detroit Lakes High School on Nov. 2 involved threats and parties unknown , he said, which required a much different response from law enforcement, including notifications to school officials.
"We had a threat from an unknown source, we don't know where it's coming from at the beginning," said Todd. "Every police officer that wore a badge and a gun was in the area of our schools that morning … (the incidents) are completely different, so you can't put everything into one bag."
The police department and school district issued a joint statement on the afternoon of Nov. 2, which stated: "The individuals responsible have been identified and dealt with in an appropriate manner by both school officials and law enforcement."
No other information about the high school threat has been released.
Todd said he's proud of all of his officers and how they responded to each of these threats.
"I thought our officers did a remarkable job and I'm proud of the officer who handled this case," he said. "I'm glad she called me and I'm glad that she provided me with the information, and she followed my directions, and her report was impeccable, so those are things that I want the public to know."
Todd also said he is open to a conversation with school district officials about school threat notification policies, but wants to limit undue alarm whenever he can.
"I can always do things better and I'm not perfect, and I'm always learning," he said.
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