Citizens, staff honored for heroism, support

By Janice Gregorson

They saved lives, helped catch a criminal who had eluded authorities for 16 years, and found ways to save the county thousands of dollars.

They are employees of the Olmsted County Sheriff's Department, honored Thursday night during an annual awards ceremony.

In addition, Sheriff Steve Borchardt praised a citizen, Ken Schoenfelder, described as being an avid supporter of the department for years. Schoenfelder was given the department's medal of commendation.


A farmer, Schoenfelder owns a personal helicopter and has donated his time and his helicopter several times to help authorities in investigations and searches. Borchardt said Schoenfelder has provided this service and never has asked for compensation.

Staff recognized

Several staff members earned letters of recognition.

Sgt. Fred Czekanski was recognized for his quick action trying to get people out of a burning house on Marion Road in the early morning hours of Sept. 29. He was on patrol and was first on the scene. The garage was fully engulfed in flames and the house was on fire.

Czekanski pounded on windows and yelled to wake up the occupants. Two people came out of the house and told Czekanski another person was still inside. He broke two windows trying to reach the other man, who was able to get out through a door by the garage.

The persistence of detention Deputy Robert Schei is being credited with helping catch a man who had eluded authorities in California for 16 years. A man was brought to the jail on a DWI arrest. During the routine booking process, Schei became suspicious and ran a check on the man's record. That check came back with a "hit" on someone with a similar last name, but a different first name. The birth date was the same; the height and weight were similar. Schei did more checking and found more similarities.

In the end, it was determined that the man brought into the Olmsted County jail was wanted in California for drug trafficking. Local officials were told that the man had been on the run for 16 years and was considered a major drug trafficker.

Borchardt praised the efforts of Deputy Joe Wendt, who worked an extended shift during a major snowstorm March 18. After pulling into his home's driveway in Byron, he heard a call about a burglary in process at the high school. He went to the school and caught two burglars fleeing the scene.


Six members of the nursing staff at the jail received letters of recognition for their work providing medical care to inmates as well as for helping negotiate a new pharmaceutical contract that is saving the county about $120,000 annually.

Borchardt gave medals of commendation to Rochester Police Lt. Tim Heroff and Officer Dave Thomson for their work on a contract to acquire equipment for the new 800 MHz trunked radio system.

Chris Smiley and Matt Wrubel were named this year's detention deputies of the year.

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