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Oakdale officer charged with harassment, misconduct in connection with armed standoff

The Washington County Attorney's Office filed the charges Friday, stemming from an investigation into an armed standoff with an Oakdale man in September.
Credit: sergign - stock.adobe.com

OAKDALE, Minn. — An Oakdale police officer is facing charges after prosecutors alleged he continually made harassing phone calls to a man, leading to an armed standoff earlier this year.

Forty-one-year-old Charles Nelson is charged with two gross misdemeanor counts of harassment and one count of misconduct. He's currently on administrative leave.

The Washington County Attorney's Office filed the charges Friday, stemming from an investigation into an armed standoff with an Oakdale man in September that eventually ended peacefully.

According to court documents, Nelson and his partner responded to a home in Oakdale around midnight on Sept. 23, 2022, to do surveillance on a man with an active warrant. The complaint says officers were instructed to report if the man left the residence, and further, not to engage with him due to reported mental health issues.

The man's family was working with police agencies to get him help, the complaint alleges, as his reported behavior became more "troubling" and "dangerous."

The complaint goes on to say Nelson downloaded an app to his phone that's used to mask his phone number, and proceeded to call the man -- allegedly more than 30 times -- over the course of a few hours. Court records say Nelson would not say anything on those calls.

In between those alleged calls, the complaint says the man made several calls to the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and the Washington County Sheriff's Office to report the harassment. Around 2:15 a.m., documents say, police confronted the man in his front yard where they claimed the man retreated into his home. 

Just before 3 a.m., according to court records, the man called his wife to discuss the calls, which she later told investigators were making him "paranoid." And a short time later, the complaint says the man came outside to confront officers while holding a shotgun.

Washington County SWAT responded and the man was eventually taken into custody without incident.

Five days later on Sept. 28, another Oakdale police officer came forward, alleging Nelson made the calls and that they "did in fact escalate the behavior."

When confronted by BCA agents, the complaint says Nelson admitted to making the calls in order to "build rapport," saying he didn't identify himself because he didn't "want to scare" the man.

Oakdale city officials issued a statement Friday in response to the allegations, saying in part:

"The City of Oakdale and its police department take complaint and matters of misconduct seriously, and employees found to be engaged in misconduct will be held accountable for their actions. When misconduct is committed by a police officer it tarnishes not only the professional image of the police department, but the entire policing profession. According to Police Chief Nick Newton, the guiding principles of the Oakdale Police Department (OPD) is that officers conduct themselves not only in accordance to law and policy, but follow the guiding principles of justice by treating people with respect, listening to and hearing the people served, reaching fair decisions, and always keeping at the forefront of their mind the expectations of the people served, in addition to ensuring officers’ actions are in-line with those expectations.

The OPD finds police misconduct intolerable. Chief Newton strives to hold any officer found to engage in misconduct accountable and to respond with appropriate employment action. Chief Newton’s message on the topic of police misconduct is as follows: “It’s disheartening when we work so hard to build trust with our community and when one officer engages in misconduct it undermines the efforts of all the good officers.”

You can read the city's full statement here.

Nelson's first court appearance is scheduled for Jan. 26, 2023, in Rochester.

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