In person, he was Bradley Schnickel, a 32-year-old Minneapolis police officer, fun-loving recreational-league hockey player, a neighbor who loved to talk about his daughters.

But online, Schnickel allegedly took on another persona. He was "Brady Schmidt," and he lured young girls through Facebook and Skype conversations, having sex with a 14-year-old and a sexual encounter or chats with three other girls, ages 13 and 14, according to charges filed Friday.

Schnickel, of Andover, faces three felony counts of third-degree criminal-sexual conduct and three counts of engaging in electronic communication relating or describing sexual conduct with a child. Soon after the charges were filed, the Minneapolis police said that Schnickel was no longer with the department.

Schnickel was released on bail from Anoka County jail later Friday, according to defense attorney Fred Bruno, who said he is considering taking on the case.

"He's out," Bruno said. "He's out." He declined to comment further.

At his bail hearing Friday morning, Schnickel said little. He was not asked to enter a plea. Judge Sharon Hall set unconditional bail of $500,000, and conditional bail of $250,000.

Hall ordered Schnickel, who is married, to have no contact with girls, including his two daughters. He must turn over any firearms in his possession.

Schnickel had been a member of the Minneapolis police force since 2008, most recently serving in the Fourth Precinct on the North Side. He was recommended for a medal of commendation in October 2011.

"He was friendly, somebody I'd sit in the yard with and have fun conversations with, about kids and dogs," Dean Wathen, Schnickel's next-door neighbor in Andover, said Friday.

Allegations against him

To the young girls Schnickel allegedly met online, beginning late in 2011, he was something very different, according to the charges filed Friday. He'd tell girls they were "cute and sexy" or "hot" and that he was attracted to girls as young as 12, the charges said.

Through Facebook, he told a 14-year-old that he was 22. Last July, he allegedly convinced her to meet with him. She snuck out of her house. He allegedly picked her up, took her to Crooked Lake in Coon Rapids and plied her with vodka mixed with Mountain Dew before having intercourse with her, according to the complaint.

He allegedly masturbated in front of a 13-year-old he met through Facebook chats. He sent a 14-year-old with whom he had online conversations pictures of his penis and asked her for some type of sex more than 50 times, according to the charges. When he allegedly asked another girl for sex, she told him that she was only 14. He responded by saying he "likes girls your age," the girl told authorities.

"This is a case where we have numerous young victims, and an adult who, we believe, took advantage of them in the worst way," Anoka County Attorney Tony Palumbo said Friday.

"We need to remember that the Internet is a pathway into our homes, and that predators are looking for their next victim online. I urge parents to talk to their children about online safety, just as they do about other dangers."

Inquiry 'has barely begun'

There may be other victims, prosecutor Paul Young said Friday. Authorities from Anoka County, Minneapolis and Brooklyn Center -- where another 14-year-old claims to have had inappropriate conversations with an adult using the name "Brady Schmidt"-- have pored through 3,000 pages of social-networking documents. There are at least 6,000 more pages to be read by authorities, Young said.

"Quite frankly," he said, "this investigation has barely begun."

According to Young, Schnickel apparently learned days before his arrest of the possibility of charges. On Monday, according to the criminal complaint, he asked two of the girls if they had spoken to police. He then told them to deny having had chats or contact with him, the complaint said. He allegedly told one girl he did not want to go to prison.

On Wednesday, he asked another girl to change her story, according to the charges.

Young said he found Schnickel's alleged last-ditch attempt at a cover-up "most horrifying," labeling it "his boldest move yet," asking the victims "to deny and deny and deny."

Career background

Before joining the Minneapolis Police Department in January 2008, Schnickel was with the Glencoe, Minn., Police Department for 2 1/2 years and with the Minneapolis Park Police from 2003 to 2005.

In October of 2011, as a Minneapolis police officer, he was recommended for a medal of commendation after he tackled an armed suspect in an alley, ignoring his personal safety, according to department records. Records also show that three complaints that were filed against him were closed with no disciplinary action taken.

Schnickel holds a bachelor's degree in criminal justice from St. Cloud State University and a master's in police leadership, administration and education from the University of St. Thomas, according to his personnel file.

On Thursday, after word of his Wednesday arrest circulated, several Minneapolis police officers who have worked with Schnickel expressed shock at the news.

On Friday, a person who played in an adult hockey league with Schnickel also voiced surprise.

"We played hockey together; he was a fun-loving guy," said Jamie Malarkey. "I didn't know him well, but this is so surprising."

Schnickel's next court date is March 6. • 612-673-4419 • 612-673-4482