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Charges dropped against farmer who confronted thief

Associated Press

CAMBRIDGE, Minn. — Charges against a retired Isanti County farmer who chased down a gasoline thief while wielding a shotgun, earning him accolades from across the country, were dropped Tuesday.

Kenneth Englund, 74, was initially charged with felony assault, though those charges were reduced to two misdemeanors — pointing a gun at another person and disorderly conduct.

On Tuesday, County Attorney Jeffrey Edblad said his office "no longer believes that this case can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt" after further investigation. But he said he hopes the case will educate the public that "an individual cannot threaten to use a firearm to protect personal possessions."

Englund’s attorney, Brian Toder, had sought dismissal of the charges, saying Englund was within his rights in going after the thief in an effort to help law enforcement.

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Englund, a Town Board member and longtime road maintenance worker, and his Pomeranian dog came upon Christian Harris Smith, 28, and a woman Oct. 15 at the vacant farm next to Englund’s place. He then chased their vehicle at speeds of 70 mph, according to a criminal complaint.

Smith was charged with misdemeanor theft. Last week, a deputy interviewed Smith at the St. Cloud state prison, where he is serving time for an unrelated meth possession offense. According to a transcript, Smith reversed himself and said Englund did not point a gun at him, the woman who was driving or her 3-year-old child.

Englund said he is thankful for support from as far away as Canada, California, Ohio and Florida and "very happy" with the outcome. After his arrest, more than 350 people attended a fundraising dinner for him, and a petition in support of his case circulated.

"I will still be a vigilant person," he added. "But I’ll leave my dog and shotgun at home."

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