A Taser that had been mistakenly left behind by a Burnsville police officer during a drug search six weeks ago turned up Jan. 21 when three 19-year-olds allegedly used it to rob a Subway restaurant in Burnsville.

The officer who misplaced the Taser was a member of the Dakota County Drug Task Force, said Capt. Jef Behnken. "It was inadvertently left behind" at a search on Dec. 5, he said, and "it shows up in this robbery case and that's when we first discovered it."

The department is conducting an internal investigation into how the mistake happened and why it wasn't reported by the officer who misplaced it.

Jesus A. Ybarra of Eagan, Jake L. Benson of Apple Valley and Emily K. Schuster of Lakeville have been charged in Dakota County District Court with simple robbery and terroristic threats, both felonies.

According to the criminal complaints, Schuster went into the Subway on Cliff Road at closing time on Jan. 21 and opened the back door for three men wearing dark clothing and bandanas over their faces. The lone employee told police that one of the men put a Taser to his neck and told him to open the cash register, then to lie face-down on the floor.

The employee said one of the men opened the safes below the register and that man sounded like Benson, an ex-employee who had been fired the previous Friday. The men fled out the back door with $1,874.

Officers found cash and a Taser X26 in a parking lot behind the restaurant. They also discovered a vehicle in the lot with its engine running. The driver said he was there to pick up his friend, Benson, and his roommate, Ybarra, the complaint said.

The complaints said a surveillance camera in the restaurant showed Schuster come in, go into the bathroom, then come out and let the robbers in.

Behnken said police knew at the scene that the Taser they found was a police model, as opposed to a civilian model, but it wasn't until they looked into its serial number that they realized it belonged to the Burnsville Police Department.

Some Tasers are issued to people on specialty assignments, such as the Drug Task Force, and they are responsible for maintaining the weapon at all times, Behnken said. Patrol officers who carry the stun guns, on the other hand, must sign them in and out each day.

"We take responsibility for it and we're reviewing our protocol," Behnken said. "We just hope it doesn't happen in the future. Mistakes happen and that's what happened in this case."

Pat Pheifer • 952-746-3284