County investigating complaint against officer who killed deer

FL police chief wants no conflict of interest

Cliff Buchan
News Editor

The Washington County Sheriff’s Office has been asked to investigate a complaint against the Forest Lake police officer who shot and killed two young deer in the early morning hours of Saturday, Jan. 14.

Chief of Police Rick Peterson said he referred the matter to the county to avoid any conflict of interest tied to an internal Forest Lake review of the case.

The complaint against officer Brent Degroot was filed on Jan. 20 by Jeff Carpenter, 10010 North Shore Trail N. Carpenter is at center stage of the deer shooting incident that was triggered by a Department of Natural Resources email to city police requesting that police dispatch the two fawns if found.

The deer, both orphans, had been fed by the Carpenters since they were observed abandoned in the spring. The pair had been marked with colorful collars by Carpenter as a way to tell the pair apart.

The DNR reportedly had received reports of the two collared deer and alerted police to dispatch the pair if found.

In his complaint, Carpenter requested that Degroot be placed on a minimum of one week un-paid suspension. In the formal complaint to Chief Peterson, Carpenter found fault with Degroot’s report that he said did not include accurate time lines and distances from the road to the Carpenter house. Carpenter also accused Degroot of exercising poor judgment by discharging a firearm on private property as the deer posed no threat to human life.

Carpenter alleges in the complaint that the first shot fired by Degroot came 50 minutes prior to sunrise on Jan. 14. After hearing the second shot five minutes later, Carpenter went outside and saw an adult male standing 54 feet from the house wearing dark clothes with a shotgun in his hands. Carpenter said the officer did not identify himself and he was unaware that the man in his yard with a gun was a police officer.

“This situation could have easily ended in injury or death to Degroot, myself or both,” Carpenter said of his instinct to defend himself and his family.

Carpenter said the incident and the killing of the two deer has traumatized his family. “We have lived, worked and enjoyed Forest Lake for 34 years,” Carpenter wrote. “We have resided at this location for 23 years for its once quiet setting.

“On January 14, 2012, Degroot made a radical decision with poor judgement that has forever changed our lives. This was handled wrong and it is excusable. Degroot needs to be held accountable for his actions. If not, he and the Forest Lake Police Department will never be trusted by this community.”

Peterson this week said he has completed a review of the incident and found no policy or state law violations on the part of his officers. To bring the matter to a resolution, he requested the sheriff’s office review the case reports.

Degroot on the morning of Jan. 14 told his shift sergeant that he nearly hit one of the young deer while on patrol on North Shore Trail. The first-year officer was authorized by his sergeant to dispatch the animals if found.

Steve Povolny, first assistant Washington County attorney, said on Monday his office is awaiting findings from the sheriff’s office which would determine if any legal action is considered by the county in the case.

Other News

In other police department news, two men were arrested on drug charges after a traffic stop on W. Broadway Avenue at I-35 at 12:16 a.m. on Feb. 2.

A  license plate check of a vehicle determined that its owner, John A. Gerst, 38, of Woodbury, was subject to an outstanding felony drug warrant. The driver of the car, Allen T. Young, 51, of Little Canada, was driving after revocation of license.

A police search of the car uncovered a quantity of methamphetamine, police said. Both men were taken to the Washington County Jail where Gerst was booked on probable cause of third-degree possession of meth and Young was held on probable cause of fifth-degree possession of meth.

Police in Forest Lake also made four driving while intoxicated arrests late last week and over the weekend.

In one of the cases, an arrest followed an attempt to locate a drunk driver who was first observed on I-35 near Rush City and traveling south. Capt. Greg Weiss said police received a number of reports of the man being all over the road.

Police here made the traffic stop at 11:13 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 9  on southbound I-35 near the US-8 connection.

The man, a 31-year-old from Benoit, WI, failed a field sobriety test and produced a blood alcohol content reading of .41. The legal limit to drive in Minnesota is .08.

Dennis Glenn Vitek was taken to Regions Hospital, St. Paul, where he was to be held, pending formal charges of second-degree gross misdemeanor driving while intoxicated.

  • Liz

    Let’s see now. It had already been determined that the deer had not escaped captivity froma deer farm. The deer had pretty fluffy collars on. The deer were in the yard of a private citizen. It was prior to dawn. Enough time had passed in the prior days for the sheriff’s department to ask local residents if they knew anything about the deer with the pretty collars……a letter could have been sent to each homeowner in this area asking them to call the sheriff’s department if they knew anything about the deer.
    Yet, nothing was done by this pathetic department except that they contacted the DNR. Who do these clowns work for??? Who pays their salary? D they really give a rat’ butt about the citizens they protect, or are they just too happy using their guns against innocent animals? Did anyone in this department actually graduate from high school? Does anyone in this department have a brain that can think outside the box?
    What a bunch of LOSERS!!!!!!
    Go shoot your guns boys. Keep killing the innocent’ gentle, harmless deer. Be proud cause you did what you always do…you shoot first and then ask the questions that could have been asked. You destroy living beings BECAUSE YOU HAVE NO SKILLS IN PROBLEM SOLVING.
    Any damn fool with an IQ foo 40 would have known that if the deer did not escape froma local deer farm, then there was likely a very good chance that they were not carrying the types of disease you profess to worry about.
    Jesus, help us, with the likes of you protecting us.

    • Middle Ground

      “Enough time had passed in the prior days for the sheriff’s department to ask local residents if they knew anything about the deer with the pretty collars……a letter could have been sent to each homeowner in this area asking them to call the sheriff’s department if they knew anything about the deer.”

      Better yet why not just refrain from placing human marks on wild animals? Why have tax funded FLPD go put out “Lost Deer” signs or have you seen these deer roaming the area. The idea that the FLPD or even the street department or volunteer citizens are expected to go door to door trying to inquire about the collared deer is nuts. Whomever placed the collars started this mess.

      Why not start a community campaign to keep the police off your property. Post it “No Police!”. As to the dead fawns, mistakes were made. Let’s move on.

    • Anonymous

      I guess another lesson to be learned is to not interfere with wildlife…and at the very least don’t put fluffy collars on wild animals. Then this whole thing might have been avoided. Yes it is sad and tragic but also a good chance to learn a lesson about leaving wild animals be wild. That is why they are truly beautiful because they are not wearing colorful collars and playing with the family dog out in the yard.

  • Brian

    It is sad that people judge the actions of a Police Officer in the course of his duties, maybe they should be publicly judged for their daily actions.

  • Middle Ground

    While I think the DNR should have handled this matter on their own, the FLPD unfortunately, got involved. They were assigned to handle the matter of these wild deer on the run with domesticated style collars around their neck. Bitching about this and the FLPD is one thing. Going after the officer so as to tarnish his image is another. I am a animal lover. One can’t take wild animals for their own or, in their heart try to personalize them as one’s own. If the idea of placing the collars on them, had never come up, the fawn deer would still be alive today. They were, according to DNR regulations, marked for death once those pet collars were placed on them. To continue to trash the FLPD by the fawn’s adopted human parents, seems excessively mean spirited and borders on them needed some grief counseling. Hopefully someone can help them.

  • Rabid Troll

    It is scary that those who protect the public can be so eager to kill harmless animals. It is well known that mass murderers begin by killing animals. The legal system should consider that an officer who kills for fun is not worthy of enforcing the law and even incarceration.

    • Planet Watch

      Ah gee. I hardly know what can be said here. Police are mass murderers, kill for fun. Why don’t we just eliminate the police and let the strongest survive. Let the natural order take its course. How far into the extreme would you like to go RT?

    • anonymous

      Rabid Troll…You need to go back and read the article to see that this was not an officer killing “For Fun”. This was simply an officer doing his duty. Your mass murderer connection is quite rediculous. That would imply that the thousands of people who buy hunting liscenses every year in Minnesota are mass murderers. Or how about people who flush a goldfish down the toilet or smash a fly on the window? Probly not mass murders.

  • Mike

    Granted things could of been handled better.
    With that said I’m grateful that the police are there in emergencies and when there are bad guys around

  • Eric Langness

    It’s interesting how much interest becomes of a relatively small story about one persons ‘rights’ or absence of ‘rights’ being violated gets so many people excited. It’s interesting because so many in our various governments are taking away our ‘rights’ daily through more regulation, telling us how we must live our lives, raise our children and demand more of our hard labor and sweat through higher and higher taxes. Wake up people, this is miniscule in comparison.