Disputed TV report creates 'distrust'
Local officials who called a news report from a Twin Cities television station "erroneous and disturbing" have shared more details from the incident that prompted the story.
KMSP-TV reported Sunday night that Cody Schunk's family was "pulled out of bed" by Olmsted County Sheriff's deputies about 7 a.m. Aug. 25. Schunk said authorities realized they had the wrong house after about 15 minutes: "He came in and said, we're sorry, thanks for cooperating and told my kids we weren't criminals and that was it."
Not so, said Capt. Scott Behrns, who accused the station of "creating distrust between law enforcement and our citizens."
The incident began after authorities, investigating a series of rural burglaries Aug. 24 that had resulted in thousands of dollars worth of items — possibly by a white man with "dirty blond" hair, driving an SUV — received a couple of pieces of information.
First, one of the stolen debit cards had been used that night at a Rochester business. When deputies responded, they were told employees couldn't access the surveillance tape; instead, they'd have to wait until management arrived the next morning at 6 a.m.
About an hour later, deputies learned one of the victims had used the "find my iPhone" app to locate a stolen desktop computer. According to reports, the app indicated the computer was at 622 13th Ave. SE — Schunk's residence.
Members of law enforcement, unable to get a search warrant before 8 a.m., responded to the neighborhood to begin watching the home. An SUV was parked in the driveway of Schunk's home.
About 6:15 a.m. Aug. 25, deputies on the scene saw two people carrying backpacks walk through the backyard of the house, Behrns said.
"Contact was made," he said, and the two claimed they were just cutting through the yard to a friends' house. As the deputies were talking to the pair, they saw someone look out the window of Schunk's home, "so they knew the Sheriff's Office was out there," Behrns said.
Fearing evidence of any crime may be destroyed, deputies knocked on the door of the home at 6:40 a.m., announcing themselves as law enforcement, he said.
Schunk met them at the door "and we explained why we were there, and said we wanted to secure the residence so no possible evidence would be destroyed," Behrns said.
"We were let inside by the occupant — no force was used," he said. Schunk actually told them the real suspect might be up the street.
At 6:47 a.m., deputies learned the suspect, Todd Black, 37, had been recognized in the surveillance tapes from the business. He was living at 605 13th Ave. SE; it's where the stolen items were recovered.
"We apologized for the mistake, we owned it," Behrns said, "and they said they understood what happened. One occupant actually gave one of our officers a high-five, and said, 'thanks for cleaning up the neighborhood.'
"We didn't go 'hands-on,' and we certainly didn't prevent anyone from using the bathroom, especially not a child," he said.
The TV news story was "extremely inappropriate and doesn't reflect what happened," down to the use of the word "raid" to describe what happened.
The Olmsted County Sheriff's Chief Deputy spoke with Schunk Monday, Behrns said, calling the meeting "cordial."
"If we hadn't had those people walk by (in the backyard), this would've been a non-event," he said. "We'd have waited (in the cars) for the surveillance pictures and recognized Black."
The app "hit" on Schunk's address, Behrns said, because the stolen computer was in a vehicle parked in the street nearby.
Black was charged Thursday in Olmsted County District Court with second-degree burglary and possession of stolen property, both felonies.