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Our View: Everyone needs to know about threatening incidents

Any and every person has a right to know if they are in danger, and law enforcement have a duty to inform the public of that danger.

However, that doesn’t always happen, especially in the ever-changing and growing Oil Patch.

This truth was never more evident than when The Dickinson Press heard the story of a Dunn County man and a self-proclaimed traveling “insurance salesman.”

The Press received a call from a person who said a man claiming to be a salesman selling “cancer insurance” came to rural Manning resident Daryl Semerad’s home, where he discovered he was not welcome.

The pushy salesman wouldn’t leave Semerad’s property, going as far as putting his foot in the door to keep the homeowner from shutting him out. Semerad even got a mop handle to shoo him away, but the salesman took it from him.

“The situation was becoming threatening,” Semerad told The Press. “To that point, that’s when I told him that I was going to get my gun.”

That’s exactly what Semerad did. The man was told to leave Semerad’s property multiple times. Eventually, Semerad fired three shots — two warning shots and one that “may have” hit the unwanted “salesman’s” vehicle.

People may be inclined to condemn Semerad, since firing a weapon at someone who is fleeing is considered a criminal act. But the rural man said he felt threatened, adding he thought the salesman may cause harm to him and his wife.

When someone lives at least 20 minutes from the closest law enforcement office and feels threatened, it’s hard to blame them for trying to protect themselves.

This isn’t about self-defense. This is about knowing that there was possibly a man driving around Dunn County threatening people. Residents want to know if they should lock their doors, and one would think the Dunn County Sheriff’s Office would be quick to let them know, right?

That wasn’t the case here. In fact, this incident occurred on Jan. 21. The Press didn’t learn about the incident until Feb. 1. Our staff got on the story immediately, calling the sheriff’s office. Two weeks went by with no response. The reporter drove to Manning to get the story, but found that a report about the incident had not been submitted. One deputy later told The Press “we documented the fact that a guy was possibly going around impersonating an insurance salesman,” adding, “it’s just another day in the oilfield.”

It may be another day in the Oil Patch, but shots were still fired. Someone’s life may have been at risk, and others may be in danger as well. The goal of all law enforcement is to protect the people they serve. One way to do that is to inform the public of any threat. Waiting days could put lives in harm’s way, but waiting two weeks or a month is irresponsible.

We understand that illegal activity in western North Dakota has increased. More people are moving in evry day. That opens the door to more crime.

A dozen deputies can’t possibly be on duty at all times and have to cover more than 840 square miles, which is home to approximately 44,000 people. Those numbers should tell anyone just how much their resources are stretched.

With that said, someone did drop the ball. A report should have been filled out within days. Anyone who pays taxes has a right to know what happened whether they are a journalist, a banker or a mechanic. Every citizen can call the law enforcement department and ask for an incident report, according to North Dakota’s Sunshine Laws.

This isn’t the first time this has happened in the history of news, and sadly it won’t be the last. One of the best ways to get the message across is through the media — especially in a newspaper like The Press, which has more than 7,000 subscribers.

Social media has also become a huge player in spreading news, but the story often gets distorted with rumors.

We want to work with law enforcement to get the correct facts to our readers as soon as possible. When it comes to safety, we hope the Dunn County Sheriff’s Office will be the messenger. The Press will certainly deliver that message.

The Dickinson Press Editorial Board consists of Publisher Harvey Brock, Managing Editor Dustin Monke and Assistant Editor April Baumgarten.