A rude awakening: Perham police officer drops off intoxicated man at wrong home
The homeowner said the officer then told the intoxicated man to get up off the couch, and when the man didn’t comply, the officer talked about tasing him, which motivated the man to his feet. She said the officer then brought the man to his patrol car and her husband followed them outside.
PERHAM — A Perham police officer drove an intoxicated man about 10 miles outside of city limits, down a long gravel driveway and allowed him to enter a farmhouse. The problem was, he didn’t live there.
The homeowner, Kristen Brown, said around 1 a.m. Monday, July 25, her husband woke to noise coming from the main level of their house. He sprung from his bed, which was upstairs. The sheer force of his swiftness woke his wife from her slumber.
Fast feet thumped down the stairs and her husband’s terse voice followed. He was demanding to know who the man on their couch was, and why he was there.
“My children's bedrooms are also upstairs,” Brown said. “My son is 6 and my daughter is 1½. I went to check on them.”
When she opened the door to her boy’s bedroom, the family’s two powerful dogs burst through, and unfriendly growls followed. Brown was able to hold them back at where the staircase made an L-turn to the dining room. From there she saw the silhouette of a man on their couch.
“The lights were off, but I could see because the moonlight was shining in,” she said. “Then I saw a flashlight coming from the kitchen.”
She said her husband saw the flashlight out of the corner of his eyes, as well. While the man behind the flashlight reportedly did not declare he was a police officer, Brown said her husband saw the Perham Police patrol car from the screen door.
Her husband "asked who they were and why they were in our house,” Brown recalled.
At that point, she said, the officer admitted he had dropped off the man there, believing it was the man's mother’s house.
On Tuesday, Aug. 2, Perham Police Chief James Gritz confirmed that Officer Emmanuel Reyes, who has been with the department less than a year, was told the residence belonged to the mother of the intoxicated man.
Brown said the officer then told the intoxicated man to get up off the couch, and when the man didn’t comply, the officer talked about tasing him, which motivated the man to his feet. She said the officer then brought the man to his patrol car and her husband followed them outside.
“Then the officer ran my husband’s license plate number to make sure he lived here,” Brown said. “Then, he left.”
Some details differed between the Browns’ version and what Gritz was told. Gritz said the license plate of the vehicle parked at the residence was run while the intoxicated male was making his way inside the house. He said that after the officer saw the plate owner’s name didn’t match the intoxicated male’s name, the officer walked to the door, knocked and announced himself. From the door, the officer observed a man come down the stairs and confront the intoxicated man on his couch.
Gritz filled in missing details of how the evening began. A Perham establishment contacted the police department and notified them there was an intoxicated customer that needed a safe ride home.
“We don’t do it terribly often,” Gritz said. “There was no taxi service running that night.”
Gritz said the intoxicated man had lost his phone and Officer Reyes agreed to provide a public service.
Gritz said after Reyes made contact with the man, Reyes checked the man’s driver’s license, as well the license plate on the vehicle he drove to the establishment. The problem was, the man had not updated his license information from a previous address.
Gritz said the man was brought to an old address, at which time the man informed the officer that he no longer lived there. Instead, the man led the officer to Brown’s farmstead.
“He was adamant that he was at his mother’s place,” Gritz was told.
Brown noted the doors at their home are normally locked at their residence.
“I don’t know if we forgot or if the door didn’t fully close,” she said. “But, this could’ve been a very different situation.”
Those thoughts continually run through the Brown’s heads. What if the dogs had attacked the intoxicated man or the police officer? What if a gun had been drawn? What if the officer had left and the man found his way upstairs to one of their child’s rooms? Their son has also been troubled by what he heard and saw, she said, noting sleep doesn’t come easy for him lately.
Brown emphasized the family supports police and recognizes they are vital to the community and do many great things. Brown said her hope is that the incident provides awareness that more training is needed in such situations, and perhaps a better policy.
Gritz said the Perham Police Department does not have a policy in place for safe rides home.
Gritz said “there will be training from here on.” He added another good lesson learned from this experience was the importance of updating a license and plate license information promptly after moving to a new residence.
The department has seven full-time officers, including the chief, and one civilian assistant.
“We were trying to perform a public service and help someone get home,” Gritz said. “This was an unfortunate incident and thankfully no one got hurt.”
It should be noted that Perham does not have a holding cell, and unless someone is under arrest or detained, they wouldn’t be transported to the jail in Fergus Falls or detox center in Moorhead.
“This person wasn’t causing problems, the establishment just didn’t want him driving home,” Gritz said.