UPDATE: Harwood city employee placed on paid leave following police standoff in MN

Published: May. 4, 2022 at 9:52 AM CDT|Updated: May. 6, 2022 at 1:59 PM CDT
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RICHVILLE, M.N. (Valley News Live) - UPDATE: The City of Harwood has voted to place a city employee on paid administrative leave pending an internal investigation after the man was arrested over the weekend following a police standoff in rural Otter Tail County.

Court documents say authorities were called to a home on Pickerel Dr. near Richville, Minn. on Sunday, May 1 for a report of a domestic assault involving a gun.

60-year-old Bernard Stasch of Richville threatened a woman in the home, threw her to the ground, strangled her and then stated he was going to kill her, court documents say. Stasch was the Superintendent of Public Works for the City of Harwood at the time of the incident, and has been an employee of the city for over 27 years.

Harwood City Council voted 4-1 at a special meeting Friday, May 6 to place Stasch on paid administrative leave, as Mayor Blake Hankey stated Stasch has been a ‘valuable’ employee and has yet to be convicted of any of his charges.

“He also deserves a little bit of the benefit of the doubt here. I don’t know what caused this issue, if it was brought on by something,” George Vinson, a council member said Friday. “We may have some of our citizens that believe unpaid leave is the right answer, but because we haven’t really spoken to Bernie and no internal investigation has started yet that I’m aware of, there’s more unanswered questions than answers.”

Councilman Dick Sundberg was the only dissenting vote. He stated he would only approve a certain amount of paid leave or none at all. Sundberg also said since the incident happened, he’s received concerns from several people in the community about the situation, and said some voiced safety concerns of Stasch being allowed back at work due to the alleged details in his case.

“For what it’s worth, they’re the taxpayers, we represent them. None of them were in favor of putting him on paid leave,” Sundberg said.

Mayor Hankey assured the internal investigation would not drag on for months on end, but also vowed it would be thorough. He added he and Vinson, who is also a Fargo Police captain, will conduct the investigation.

“I would think it would be a fairly expeditious process to see what’s going on so we can make a decision,” Mayor Hankey said.

“Trust with our community members who we are serving has been placed in jeopardy here, so an internal investigation needs to happen a lot quicker than 6 to 9 months, however the criminal court case will take,” Vinson said.

Court documents filed in court this week state the female victim ran out of the house and shortly after police arrived on Sunday, and shortly after, documents say Stasch followed. Documents say Stasch came out with a gun and fired it several times forcing police to call in a bearcat. Court records also say during the standoff, Stasch would approach the bearcat with his gun pointed at officers, and would wave it around.

Hours later, Stasch surrendered and was taken into custody. Stasch has since bonded out of jail, but is charged with second-degree assault, terroristic threats and domestic assault.

Stasch has since bailed out of jail. He is expected to be in court again late in May.

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