Video shows conversation that led motorist to complain about North Dakota trooper running for office
Trooper Ves Marinov told the stranger they were neighbors then followed her on Instagram, according to the North Dakota Highway Patrol report. The Fargo City Commission candidate called his actions a mistake and said he is taking responsibility for them.
FARGO — A state trooper who is running for Fargo City Commission said he made a mistake in having what a motorist called an "inappropriate" conversation with her during a traffic stop before following her on social media.
Trooper Ves Marinov, one of 15 candidates vying for two commission seats, went against the North Dakota Highway Patrol’s training and standard procedures when he had a "personal conversation" with the motorist during a April 15 traffic stop in Traill County, the state agency determined.
“The decision to engage in the personal conversation with (the motorist) was unwise and detained (the motorist) further in the stop than was permissible,” the Highway Patrol report detailing the incident said.
Marinov told The Forum he received a letter of warning for the incident. He called his actions a mistake, adding that he is taking responsibility for them.
“We learn from our mistakes, and I believe this is a learning experience to make me a better person and a better trooper," he said in a phone interview.
The report, obtained by The Forum through a public records request, said Marinov stopped a woman at 8:35 a.m. on April 15 about 6 miles south of Hillsboro, North Dakota, on Interstate 29. The woman was ticketed for speeding between 11 and 15 mph over the speed limit.
During the stop, Marinov asked about her college education and career aspirations, the report said. He also gave personal information about himself and said they were neighbors, according to the report.
About an hour after the stop, Marinov tried to follow the woman on Instagram, the report said.
The motorist told the Highway Patrol she didn’t know Marinov before the stop, and she wasn’t sure that they were neighbors, the report said. She called the conversation "inappropriate" and said she thought it was creepy the trooper sent her a follow request on Instagram, the report said.
“(A)ttempting to follow a complete stranger shortly after stopping them cannot be condoned,” the Highway Patrol said in the report. “The public places a trust in us that was violated by this social media request.”
The Highway Patrol has reviewed video and audio of the incident, recordings that were released to The Forum a few days after this story was first published online.
Marinov, who's been a state trooper since 2014, told The Forum he was mistaken in thinking the woman was his neighbor. He noted her address appeared to be near his home, but it wasn't.
The woman told Marinov she was studying law, he said. He said he has friends who are attorneys.
The trooper said he wasn't trying to pursue a friendship with the law student. He said he wants to have a positive relationship with attorneys in the area since officers work with lawyers, he added.
"I was trying to be friendly," he said. "There was nothing beyond that."
He said he tries to be friendly with people to make hard situations more bearable. He said he understands how his words and questions could have made the motorist feel uncomfortable.
"I found her interesting, and I confused her very, very positive demeanor and friendliness as an opportunity to talk to her," Marinov said. "My intent was never to make this lady feel uncomfortable."
Marinov acknowledged sending the Instagram request while on duty, according to the report. He also said he didn’t follow the woman to form a personal relationship but understands it was inappropriate, the report said.
He told The Forum he sees Instagram as a "public square," adding that he follows a lot of people he doesn't know.
"Looking back, I recognize it was my mistake," he said. "You can quote me: I should have known better. There was no intent to creep on anybody."