The founder of a Twin Cities website that monitored law enforcement scanner dispatches and shared them online for citizens and journalists alike has died, his family said.
Jeff C. Sandell, 39, the largely anonymous and lone operator of mnpoliceclips.com, died Tuesday of colon cancer at his home near Buffalo, according to his mother, Nancy Sandell.
"I want to let my friends and family know my son passed away … in his sleep," Sandell wrote on her Facebook page. "He was a fantastic person. … My son was Police Clips."
Through the website and its associated Facebook page and Twitter account, Sandell built a legion of followers that listened to the movements of law enforcement during conversations with dispatchers throughout the Twin Cities area.
Whether it was police chases, deadly traffic crashes or homicides, mnpoliceclips.com captured scanner audio whenever possible and posted it online, sometimes within minutes of the unfolding events.
"Why get your news 3rd, 4th or 5th hand hours later?" the website notes in explaining its mission. "The audio here gives you a chance to hear breaking news as it happened from those who were there."
In an interview Sunday, Nancy Sandell said her son was passionate about keeping his association with mnpoliceclips.com secret, even to the point that she didn't know what he was doing until about a year ago, after the site was several years into its existence.
"He just told me one day, 'Mom, you should check out this site,' " she said. "I had not a clue."
Jeff Sandell used six or seven scanners to track law enforcement from a home he shared with his 83-year-old grandmother, Nancy Sandell said, adding that the fascination with police dispatches was rooted in the Sandell family home as he grew up in St. Louis Park.
"We all listened to police scanners as a kick," she said.
As big-city newsrooms in the Twin Cities scaled back on staffing over the years, reporters and editors found Sandell's work valuable in assessing an incident, sometimes making decisions on coverage based on what was heard.
Sandell also directed his enterprise's attention to far-flung locations in Minnesota. In June, his site posted police audio as the hunt was on near International Falls for suspects in the killing of a 19-year-old woman in Wright County. That audio helped the Star Tribune and other Twin Cities media with their reports.
Many fans of mnpoliceclips.com became worried about its chief operator when the site fell idle early last week and made no posts during the shooting death of a black motorist in Falcon Heights by a St. Anthony police officer. That killing came one day after Sandell died.
On the day after Sandell's death, one message on the Police Clips Facebook page read: "Haven't seen anything since the 4th. We all miss our updates. Hope everything is ok."
Once the news of Sandell's death spread, the messages shifted to mourning and condolences.
"You've been a great resource and always added comedic relief when we needed it," one young man posted on the site's Facebook page, which has more than 120,000 "likes."
"You were always my favorite news source and my first go-to whenever 'something' was happening," another posting read. "Always so quick to post & the most accurate source out there. I've checked so many times this week to see if there were any posts & knew something was up."
A fundraising page has been established to help with the family's expenses related to Sandell's death: gofundme.com/2dll0c4. Nancy Sandell said there will be no funeral for her son. She and his grandmother, Dee, are his only immediate survivors. His father, Michael, died in 2002, also from colon cancer.