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Sebeka police chief arrested for DWI

A New York Mills officer cited Sebeka police chief Eric Swenson for suspicion of driving drunk Feb. 26.

In his latest brush with the law, Swenson was pulled over about 11 p.m., New York Mills police officer Bruce Wangsness said Monday. The incident report won’t be released to the public until Swenson appears in Otter Tail County District Court.

No court date has been set for the DWI case, said Heather Brandborg, assistant Otter Tail County attorney. She said Swenson, 48, is headed to trial for a fifth-degree domestic assault misdemeanor from last June, which led to the Sebeka City Council suspending him with pay for 30 days later in the summer. A pretrial scheduling conference is slated for March 10.

Earlier in June, Swenson pleaded guilty to a disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor prompted by “drunk and belligerent” behavior at The Outpost, a bar in Huntersville, according to the Wadena County Sheriff’s Office. The judge fined Swenson and sentenced him to 30 days in jail stayed for one year of probation, which required him to stay out of trouble.

In DWI cases, the state typically suspends driver’s licenses after a weeklong grace period, Brandborg said, although she could not confirm that Swenson’s grace period would expire on Wednesday night.

Meanwhile, the chief continues to patrol the town in his squad car.
During the noon hour Monday at Sebeka City Hall, a uniformed Swenson declined comment. Asked how Sebeka’s law enforcement would be handled once his driver’s license is suspended, the town’s only full-time officer replied “Don’t know,” before heading back to his office and closing the door.

Sebeka Mayor David Anderson said the city will still have law enforcement protection even if Swenson can’t drive.

“Unfortunately, the (Wadena County Sheriff’s Office) is going to have to cover until we get this resolved,” Anderson said.

Sheriff Mike Carr said the county already frequently responds to calls in Sebeka. “Nothing will change on our end,” he said. “We’ve been down this road before.”

Citing privacy law, Anderson declined to comment further. At this point, he said, the city council has yet to schedule a special meeting to discuss the situation.

In the office across the hall from Swenson’s, Sebeka city clerk Sally Sandberg said she couldn’t provide any details.

“We’re aware that something happened,” Sandberg said, “and it’s being looked into.”

Monday afternoon, nearly 20 Sebeka residents approached at the hardware store, senior center, restaurant and elsewhere along the town’s main drag refused to comment about Swenson. A few others shared opinions - praise for the chief as a kind-hearted person mixed with disbelief that he still has a job - but they wouldn’t give their names.

“You’re probably not going to get a whole lot of conversation out of any of us,” said Sue Wieseler, assistant manager at Sebeka Liquors, “because most of us know him quite well.”

In addition to last year’s 30-day suspension, the council suspended Swenson for a week without pay in 2010 and ordered him to complete a police ethics course after several incidents that year, including a report he responded to a call with alcohol on his breath.

In October of that same year, he made national news after reporting SWAT equipment had gone missing from his home in Otter Tail County. A sheriff’s office report stated Swenson found the items - loaded magazines for both a Glock 9mm handgun and an AR-15 rifle, night vision goggles and stun grenades - a week later in a backyard fort built by his then 9-year-old son. Later that month, Swenson told the Pioneer Journal that the items were actually found inside the house.