A woman elbowed Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher in the face and nearly broke his nose early Saturday morning when he responded to a domestic disturbance call on St. Paul's East Side.
The fight was underway when a St. Paul police officer arrived about 1:30 a.m. and found Fletcher bleeding from his nose and struggling with Shania A. Phelps, 21. Phelps was arrested and booked on a felony charge of assaulting a police officer.
Fletcher responded to the call because he had been nearby livestreaming on Facebook and YouTube for his "Live on Patrol" show. He and his "Live" partner, former St. Paul police officer Patrick Scott, arrived moments before St. Paul police officers did.
Although he was broadcasting at the time, Fletcher didn't capture the incident on video. Fletcher typically records the show by mounting a cellphone on his dashboard, showing viewers whatever passes in front of his car. In Saturday's episode, viewers heard Fletcher and Scott leave the vehicle and then, minutes later, Fletcher returned and turned off the camera, telling viewers the show had to end.
According to a criminal complaint filed Monday, Phelps argued with her mother throughout the day at the house on the 1800 block of Sims Avenue. Phelps' mother told police that Phelps eventually became aggressive with another person and the mother intervened, leading to a physical fight. At some point the mother called police for help.
Scott told police officers afterward that when he and Fletcher arrived, Phelps was throwing punches at her mother. Fletcher tried to grab Phelps from behind and she spun around, throwing an elbow in his face.
Phelps' mother's face was bruised and swollen, police reported, but she declined medical help. Fletcher had bruising and swelling under his right eye. He was in uniform at the time of the arrest, according to police.
It's unusual for a Ramsey County sheriff to respond to a domestic disturbance call in the early hours of a weekend in St. Paul. Aside from the fact that the city has its own Police Department, the sheriff's office is the primary law enforcement agency in seven smaller Ramsey County communities. Fletcher rarely patrols those areas during his "Live on Patrol" show, however.
St. Paul police Chief Todd Axtell was not available Wednesday for comment on the incident. The incident generated more love of Fletcher among his loyal "Live" fans, with many sending him condolences on Facebook and expressing concern for his well-being.
Six months after he started livestreaming himself on patrols in Ramsey County, Fletcher has made plenty of fans, but it's not clear how many of them are local. Facebook comments indicate that viewers come from across the country and overseas.
The show has drawn fire from Fletcher's critics as well, who point to episodes including a high-speed chase through a residential neighborhood and an instance of distracted driving as evidence that the sheriff is more interested in drawing attention online than in doing police work.
Fletcher, who has generally not spoken to the Star Tribune since it reported that he and many of his leadership staff take pensions on top of their salaries, did not return a call seeking comment.