Detroit Lakes Police Chief Investigated For Assault on a Child at Baseball Game

Detroit Lakes Police Chief Steve Todd

DETROIT LAKES, Minn. — Detroit Lakes Police Chief Steve Todd is being investigated for allegations of physically assaulting a 12-year-old boy at a baseball game in Detroit Lakes.

The incident in question occurred Wednesday, June 20, at the Washington Park Baseball Fields in front of a crowd of spectators.

According to several witnesses at the scene, Todd, who was off duty and wearing a Hawley Nuggets shirt, arrived on bicycle to the fields to watch the game between Detroit Lakes and Hawley.

Detroit Lakes Police Chief Steven ToddDetroit Lakes Police Chief Steven Todd. (Forum News Service)
“I remember thinking, huh, that’s not a good place for that man to put that bike — it was right on the ramp going up into the stands,” said another witness, Sandi Davidson, who says she saw the 12-year-old boy coming down the ramp at the same time a little girl was. The little girl, she says, ran past the bicycle, and when she did, it started rolling down and fell over. Davidson says the 12-year-old boy then went to go pick it up. “I should have helped him pick it back up — I wish I had because none of this would have happened, but that’s all he was doing was trying to be a good kid and put it back up,” she said.

That’s when Todd allegedly came racing down the bleacher steps.

“When I saw him coming down and the look on his face, I jumped up and tried to explain to him before he even reached the boy that the kid was just trying to help, but it’s like there was no comprehension there, he didn’t listen to me,” said Davidson, who is among the witnesses who say the chief of police was yelling at the child, accusing him of stealing his bike.

And while Todd has since stated he put his “hand on the (boy’s) neck,” the police incident report states that the allegations are that he “choked” the child.

“I yelled at him to let go…that he was not trying to steal it, but that he was only picking it up,” said Nicole Kirchner, another witness, “and so (Todd) did let go, and I could see red marks on his neck.”

On Monday, Todd released a statement that reads:

“On Wednesday, June 20th I had gone for a mountain bike ride around Detroit Lakes after work. As I was going by the Washington Ball Park I saw that Hawley was playing Detroit Lakes and I stopped in to watch and visit. I parked my bike at the top of the ramp so that it would be visible to me and I went and talked with a family that I know. Periodically I would look to make sure my bike was still visible. At one point I looked to check on the bike and it was gone. I ran down to try and locate it and found a person with my bike a short distance from where I had parked it. I put my hand on the bike and on the person’s neck. I was informed by a third party that the bike had fallen and the person was picking it up. I verified this with the person and apologized. I rode back to the scene with an officer to explain what occurred to the person’s father and apologized to him as well.”

Todd referred any other questions to Detroit Lakes Mayor Matt Brenk, who said Monday that the chief will not be put on leave during the investigation.

“I see no reason for that at this point,” said Brenk.

When Detroit Lakes resident and volunteer youth basketball and football coach Matt Carrier picked his son up in the Subway parking lot across the street from the ballpark on June 20, he had no idea that minutes earlier, there had just been an incident between the town’s police chief and his 12-year-old.

“But I looked at him, and I knew right away something was wrong by the look on his face,” said Carrier, who asked what was up.

Carrier called the police to report the incident, and an officer joined him, his son and Todd at the ballpark.

Carrier says he felt the responding officer was attempting to downplay the situation as a simple misunderstanding and that there was a stark difference in testimony as to how the chief grabbed the child and where on his neck. He said there were also differences in the details of the story, like which way the child was facing at the moment of contact and whether or not the bike had been moved or how far.

“I said ‘Let’s get the witnesses down here, and he (the responding officer) said ‘No, we don’t need to do that — we’re going to settle it right now,’” said Carrier.

Carrier says he did call the sheriff’s office that night after leaving to report the incident, and Becker County Sheriff Todd Glander has confirmed that his department is actively in the process of referring the investigation to an outside agency.

“And that’s because we just work so closely with the police department,” said Glander, who wanted to avoid a conflict of interest. He says he does not know which outside agency that will be yet.