Deputies question hunter walking home
A Town of Richmond hunter is upset with how he was treated by St. Croix County Sheriff’s deputies when he was walking home from the Betterly Waterfowl Production Area east of New Richmond after hunting on the afternoon of Monday, Nov. 25.
Just after 2 p.m. that day, St. Croix County Sheriff’s deputies and officers from the New Richmond Police Department responded to multiple calls of a suspicious person in the area of County Road GG and 140th Street for a man who appeared to be “walking on the sidewalk carrying an uncased gun,” according to the incident report.
When a deputy made contact with the man, he declined to identify himself.
“He didn’t need to give his name, but I think it was the standoffishness that probably blew this thing up more than it should have been,” said St. Croix County Chief Deputy Scott Knudson.
A deputy also offered to give the man a ride home, but the man refused and said he didn’t trust her, according to the incident report.
Deputies followed the hunter, later identified as Nathan Pieters, who wasn’t breaking any laws, as he completed his trek home near Highway 65 in the Town of Richmond.
“He wasn’t brandishing it in a threatening manner, but I think people were concerned why is the guy walking down the road in camo by the school.”
At one point the Pieters came within about 1,300 feet of New Richmond High School property. It is illegal to carry a weapon within 1,000 feet of a school.
Acknowledging that Pieters was well within his rights, the deputies left, Knudson said.
“He didn’t violate anything, but I think we have a duty to make sure that his intention isn’t the school, and make sure his intention isn’t homicidal or suicidal in nature,” Knudson said. “And once we ascertain that, we’re on our way.”
The hunter’s story
Pieters’ account of the incident varies from the official report. For one matter, Pieters maintains that he was wearing orange, not camouflage, while carrying his hunting rifle and shotgun as the report indicated. He also said the deputy followed him almost all the way home and that the deputy acted aggressively during the encounter.
“She was very aggressive,” Pieters said. “I told her I had to get going and that I had kids to pick up at school, it was getting late and I had a couple miles to go. It was getting ridiculous. The deputy was obviously out of control. She was upset that I knew my rights, and she was visibly angry.”
At that point, Pieters decided to start shooting photos of the deputy behind him. In the two photos he posted to his Facebook page, a county squad car can be seen stopped at a distance, but Pieters claims the deputy followed him very closely at times, but backed away when he attempted to take pictures.
“I heard something behind me, and I turned around, and she just stopped inches from my knees,” Pieters said. “And she came up and yelled at me again.”
When Pieters reached 157th Avenue, he said he went to his neighbors’ home for help, and to get permission to cross their private property. He also took the opportunity to call Sheriff John Shilts to report the deputy’s behavior.
Shilts acknowledged that the incident didn’t need to be as confrontational as it was.
“Unfortunately, I think it could have gone a little better,” Shilts said.
He also said that the deputy took the initiative to solve a problem by offering Pieters a ride home while calls about him continued to come into dispatch.
“When we get a call about a suspicious individual with weapons, I think we have a duty to at least respond and check it out,” Shilts said. “I think what happened in this case, although this individual was doing absolutely nothing wrong -- in fact, he was doing everything right -- we still have a duty to see what’s happening, and that’s what we did.”
Above all, Shilts urged the need for the public to trust law enforcement officials.
“We cannot do our jobs if we don’t have the public’s trust,” Shilts said. “It just doesn’t work. If the public doesn’t trust law enforcement, this whole thing isn’t going to work.”