Two people who flew in a single-engine floatplane onto a lake next to the Ryder Cup golf tournament last year in Chaska and were arrested have sued the police chief and the city alleging public humiliation and rights violations.
Dean S. Johnson, 61, of Chanhassen, and James R. Render, 64, of Wayzata, on Wednesday sued Police Chief Scott Knight and the southwest metro suburb for defamation and violation of civil and constitutional rights. The defendants are seeking $225,000 in damages along with reimbursement for the legal costs in bringing the action in U.S. District Court in St. Paul.
Knight declined Thursday to speak about the suit, saying, "I cannot comment on pending litigation." Attorneys representing the city were not immediately available.
Johnson and Render were charged with petty misdemeanors for allegedly trespassing on the lake on Oct. 2, 2016, near the 10th green during the final round between the U.S. and European squads at Hazeltine National. The charges against each were dismissed six weeks later, with the prosecution explaining there was an "unlikelihood of success at trial."
Knight said a specially passed city ordinance prohibited any activity on the lake during the event. Johnson claimed he didn't know the public lake was off limits at the time he touched down on the surface and had checked with federal aviation officials about any restrictions.
In response at the time, Knight said, "I can't imagine he didn't." The chief further commented that the pilot's actions were "imbecilic" and "stupid."
"There was no basis for Chief Knight's statements to the press concerning Mr. Johnson, including those calling his actions 'imbecilic' and 'stupid,' " the suit read.
The subsequent publicity and social media chatter about the incident forced the two men to "answer many embarrassing questions" and led to "many sleepless nights worrying about how the publicity around the incident would harm their reputations from both a business and personal standpoint," the suit continued.
At the golf course's security center, the police presence totaled five or six officers, the court filing continued. One "was always very close to Mr. Johnson and Mr. Render, and the others stood blocking [the men's] ability to leave or move around the property," the suit read. Once free to go after many hours, they had to wait until the next day to retrieve the plane, according to the court action.
Two canoeists were similarly removed from the lake during the tournament that day and cited. The cases against Ryan J. Hough, 35, of Waconia, and Craig J. Bardal, 32, of Chaska, also were dropped by the Carver County attorney's office.