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Man accuses Mahnomen County deputy of misconduct during traffic stop

Mahnomen County Sheriff Josh Guenther says he supports the deputy.
Published: Jul. 13, 2020 at 8:12 PM CDT
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MAHNOMEN COUNTY, Minn. (Valley News Live) - The Mahnomen County Sheriff is standing behind his deputy after a video circulating on social media accuses the officer of misconduct.

Eugene Sommers, 26, recorded the video from his cell phone phone Saturday morning.

A member of the White Earth Band, Sommers said he hasn’t left his home since.

“I fear for my life. I’m afraid to drive because I know he gets on at 6 o’clock. I’m afraid to drive. I haven’t driven,” Sommers said on Monday.

He began shooting the video after a Mahnomen County deputy released him from custody.

“When I requested a tribal officer, what did you do? You said no and threw me in the back of your police car,” Sommers is heard telling the deputy.

A deputy reportedly pulled Sommers over at the White Earth Indian Reservation as he was going on a fishing trip with his 18-year-old cousin.

Sommers said both were searched. The infraction was for the light above the license plate being out.

Then, the officer claimed he smelled marijuana and asked Sommers to get out.

“He couldn’t look into my car and identify if there was any paraphernalia. If my eyes were bloodshot red. If I was slurring my speech,” Sommers said. “He didn’t bring any of that up. All he said is he had the scent of marijuana and I needed to get out of the car or else I would be pulled out of the car.”

Sommers, who was previously a community service officer for the White Earth Police Department, said he was forcibly handcuffed and placed inside the deputy’s vehicle.

The officer never found drugs and Sommers wasn’t cited or charged.

“Law enforcement is oppressive and uses oppressive tactics that leads to the damage of sacred items and misconduct of all the people under their jurisdiction,” Sommers said.

Sommers stated his sacred items were damaged by the deputy during the search of his vehicle.

“This is not just a Native American issue. This a public safety issue,” Sommers said.

Mahnomen County Sheriff Josh Guenther said the deputy acted appropriately and deputies don’t have body cams.

Guenther added that the officer previously worked for the White Earth Police Department and knows how to handle sacred items. If they were damaged, it wasn’t intentional.

“There’s federal law that protects my sacred items from desecration. That’s what happened. He needs to be held accountable,” Sommers said.

Sommers plans to file a formal complaint with the Mahnomen County Sheriff’s Office. The sheriff said nothing about the stop was abnormal to him.

Copyright 2020 KVLY. All rights reserved.

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