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It took 16 months, but DL Police Sergeant Robert Strand is back on patrol after investigation found him innocent

Blake Sundvor (left) accused Robert Strand (right) of punching him at the Hub 41 in Dec. of 2017. A jury found Strand innocent in Jan. this year, and he is now back at work. File Photo

After a year and four months on paid administrative leave, Detroit Lakes Police Sergeant Robert Strand is back on patrol.

Strand found himself amidst a lengthy investigation and a messy legal battle when Blake Sundvor (aka Blake Mastin), a local man that Strand has helped arrest and convict on felony scam charges, accused Strand of punching him at The Hub 41 on Dec. 23, 2017. Strand opted to take the matter to court, rather than take a plea deal and pay a $200 fine, saying "It was about the principle" and protecting his honesty, integrity, and self-pride.

After viewing a surveillance video of the incident, a jury found Strand innocent on the misdemeanor disorderly conduct charge on Jan 25 this year, agreeing with defense attorney Robert Fowler that Strand, who was off duty at the time of the incident, had acted in self defense after being pushed hard by Sundvor.

After the trial, Strand told the Tribune "It's been a long road."

Strand has been a sergeant with the Detroit Lakes Police Department for the last 17 years and had run-ins with Sundvor prior to the incident at the Hub, arresting Sundvor a couple of times.

"We (police officers) are well aware of people in the community who pose a threat at any given time. He's just an isolated one for me — I'm well aware of it," he told the Tribune in January.

Sundvor is a convicted scam artist who is convicted of several financial scams locally 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 was also convicted in Feb. 2018 of disorderly conduct brawling or fighting in the incident involving Strand.

"The real shame is that Sundvor targeted Strand because he wants a cop blamed for his problems that were simply his duty to do as a cop," Fowler told the Tribune after the trial.

Strand says he is glad to finally be back at work. He started back at the department on April 12.

There is no word on why it took another three months following the jury's innocent verdict to get Strand back to work. Strand says he isn't able to speak about it due to a non-disclosure, and Detroit Lakes Police Chief Steve Todd says he can't say anything due to data privacy laws.

"He's back out there, and he's doing a great job," said Todd.