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.