About three years ago when Joe Olson blew through a stoplight in Lauderdale, he expected what would be a routine traffic stop when he got pulled over by a St. Anthony police officer. He put his hands on the wheel, then prepared to turn his head to the left and smile.
Instead, the stop was so troubling that he later went to the then-St. Anthony police chief to tell him he may have a serious problem with how the department conducts traffic stops. But the chief, Olson said, dismissed his concern.
“I told him that if you don’t fix this, you’re going to have an even bigger problem,” Olson said. “And that’s apparently what happened.”
Olson, whose story was first reported by the Washington, D.C.-based blog ThinkProgress, is no stranger to law enforcement or firearms. A retired Hamline law professor, he’s also a gun rights lobbyist who helped write Minnesota’s permit-to-carry law. He also regularly taught classes on firearms safety that included instructions on what to do when someone carrying with a permit is pulled over.
Olson said on that day three years ago, he expected the St. Anthony officer to stand just behind the driver’s side door at the traffic stop, which is generally standard practice. Instead, the officer stood about 3 feet behind his SUV and conducted the interview through Olson’s driver’s-side mirror.
“His voice had the tremor of fear,” Olson said. “He couldn’t see my hands. He couldn’t see if anyone was in the car. I thought: This is dangerous for both of us.”
Eventually the officer asked Olson for his license and registration, but he couldn’t see Olson while he was digging in the glove box.
“I realized I could have had a grenade on the seat and he’d have no idea,” Olson said.
He eventually got a ticket, but Olson said he was troubled enough that about two years ago he went to talk with John Ohl, who was then St. Anthony’s police chief. He wanted Ohl to provide better training for his officers during traffic stops. Instead, he said Ohl praised the officer.
“I realized he wasn’t listening,” he said.
Ohl could not be reached for comment
Olson doesn’t remember the name of the officer, but says it was neither Jeronimo Yanez or Joe Kauser, the two involved in the Philando Castile shooting Wednesday night.
He said he called the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension investigators Thursday morning to describe what happened to him with the St. Anthony department, but wasn’t put in contact with anyone.
“I insisted they take my name and number,” he said. “I really don’t expect them to call back.”