Crime fighters gone rogue

Gang Strike Force officer faces stalking probe

  • Article by: PAUL MCENROE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 23, 2011 - 2:07 PM

Minneapolis Police Sgt. Randall L. Olson, a 10-year veteran who was assigned to the Strike Force in 2008, denies using Metro Gang Strike Force's GPS equipment to track a woman.

A former Metro Gang Strike Force officer is under investigation for allegedly stalking a woman by using the unit's electronic monitoring equipment and obtaining her phone records, according to court records and law enforcement officials with direct knowledge of the case.

Minneapolis Police Sgt. Randall L. Olson, a 10-year veteran who was assigned to the Strike Force in 2008, is under investigation by the department's Internal Affairs Division. Olson denied the allegations in a recent interview. He was transferred out of the Strike Force in mid-April because of the probe and is now working as a Minneapolis property crimes investigator.

Internal Affairs officers executed a search warrant just over a month ago at the Strike Force's headquarters and took possession of one of its global positioning satellite tracking devices that Olson may have used to electronically stalk a 34-year-old woman who is a Minneapolis Park Police employee, according to law enforcement sources.

Olson was still working at the office in New Brighton when internal affairs officers took the device. The officers want to examine data stored in it to determine whether Olson targeted the woman, Sarah Jean Mann, as she has alleged, according to authorities.

Mann stated that Olson, who is married to another woman, is the father of her 4-month-old child and that he threatened and harassed her during her pregnancy, according to her petition for a restraining order filed in January in Hennepin County District Court. Mann did not return calls for comment.

Besides describing how she believed Olson stalked her last year, Mann wrote in her affidavit that Olson "advised me that he knows a lot of the judges & attorneys and that he cannot be touched."

In February, a few weeks after Mann filed for a restraining order, she and Olson each signed a mutual no-contact restraining order to be in force for a year. They agreed to a "no findings'' settlement, according to publicly filed court documents. The no-fault settlement was stamped by a judge and signed by a court referee.

Another blow to unit's image

The internal affairs investigation into Olson's actions is the latest blow to the Strike Force's image. Two weeks ago, the FBI was asked by the Minnesota Department of Public Safety to launch an investigation into whether Strike Force officers were involved in criminal activity. The unit suspended all operations after its commander found that officers had removed some documents and shredded others on the afternoon and evening of May 20 at their New Brighton office. Just hours earlier, the state's Legislative Auditor had issued a special report detailing financial mismanagement by the Strike Force, including its inability to account for at least 13 vehicles and $18,000 in cash seized during investigations.

Minneapolis police administrators said they cannot comment on the Olson investigation because it has not been completed.

Olson's police file contains several letters of appreciation for his work in narcotics cases. In 2003, Olson was lauded by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Minneapolis for his efforts to protect an assistant U.S. Attorney and his family from a threat made by the Gangster Disciples street gang.

Mann wrote in her petition for a restraining order that Olson stalked her "through means of GPS tracking by cell phone signal (thru work), for months of Nov., Dec., 2008." She alleged that he "possibly bug/put tracking device on/in my house and car.''

She also said she believed Olson had subpoenaed her phone records. "I had access to his cell phone and saw my personal phone numbers in his address book on his phone,'' she wrote.

Mann stated in her petition that Olson harassed her by phone, sending her a text message on Jan. 18 that read: "Not a threat at all. Just a promise that if you come w/in 10 miles of my family, I will get a restraining order.'' That same day, she wrote, Olson threatened her, saying he would "Bring the wrath of God upon me ... I will pay for all my actions.''

In an interview, Olson said the internal affairs investigation has "nothing to do with the Gang Strike Force.''

Asked why Mann specifically alleged that Olson used electronic monitoring equipment against her, he said, "She knows how I do my job.'' He predicted that he would be cleared of any wrongdoing and asked that the Star Tribune not report on the investigation. He noted that he's had good relations in the past with reporters.

"I think it should remain a private matter because children are involved,'' he said. "The allegations are completely false."

Paul McEnroe • 612-673-1745

  • about this series

  • In 2009, the Metro Gang Strike Force was shut down amid state and federal investigations. It was Minnesota's worst law enforcement meltdown in decades. The Star Tribune broke the first stories about the unit's troubles and the newspaper's dogged reporting ultimately showed what led to its demise.

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