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Former Valley City chief involved in second gun incident on Thanksgiving

VALLEY CITY, N.D. -- The former chief of the Valley City Police Department apparently took his gun from his holster and pointed it in the direction of an Army National Guard soldier on Thanksgiving Day, City Administrator David Schelkoph said Fri...

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Valley City (N.D.) Police Department.

VALLEY CITY, N.D. - The former chief of the Valley City Police Department apparently took his gun from his holster and pointed it in the direction of an Army National Guard soldier on Thanksgiving Day, City Administrator David Schelkoph said Friday, Dec. 9.

But Schelkoph insists that incident, and other past actions by the former chief or the general performance of his duties, didn't play a factor in the City Commission's decision to cut ties with Fred Thompson.

Schelkoph also confirmed the city will pay Thompson $110,000 in severance pay on Jan. 3.

Thompson was relieved of his duties on Thursday, Dec. 8, when the City Commission voted unanimously to accept an agreement ending Thompson's time as head of the police force. He will still draw his salary for accumulated vacation time and is covered by insurance through Jan. 3, Schelkoph said in a telephone interview from Bismarck, where he was attending a meeting of the State Water Commission.

Meanwhile, a vocal critic of Valley City government, restaurant owner Bob Drake, said news of the severance payout has him pondering whether to start a drive to recall the City Commission.

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Schelkoph said city officials "reviewed the actions by the chief at the time, and found that he was totally within policy and procedure" when he confronted a National Guard soldier and another person who were leaving the National Guard Armory sometime on or about Thanksgiving Day.

Schelkoph said Thompson took his handgun out of his holster in the incident.

"I believe he did it to halt the subject," Schelkoph said. "But then when he understood who he was dealing with, he put it (the weapon) into a neutral position."

A police call report for the incident had little information, but indicated that it occurred about 8:20 p.m. Nov. 24, and that two people who tried to leave out of the back door of the facility were held at gunpoint. One of the persons was identified with a military identification card, and the incident was closed at 8:25 p.m.

Schelkoph said having Interstate 94 running by the town makes Valley City attractive to some thieves. He said with it being a holiday, no one would normally have been in the armory.

"The police are on heightened alert," especially with government buildings, Schelkoph said. "In any situation, police officers have to have the right to control it."

Capt. Robbie Hertz, a full-time National Guard supervisor, said a full-time Guard staff sergeant was at the facility with his daughter when the incident happened.

"We resolved it. We got them (the Police Department) the new roster of who all works here. So it's really no issue," Hertz said. "We were kind of glad that they actually care about our facility, because this world is a crazy place."

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Thompson was also involved in a 2016 incident in which he drew a gun on a resident playing with airsoft guns on his front lawn with his children. A group of residents then sought to have the Police Department disbanded and have policing handled by the Barnes County Sheriff's Department. The effort was abandoned after the issue was studied.

Schelkoph said he knows of no other incident in which Thompson pointed a gun at a resident of the city.

He insisted that the latest incident or Thompson's job performance in the past four-plus years were factors in spurring negotiations to remove Thompson as police chief.

The City Commission negotiated with Thompson for the separation agreement because it wanted "to move in a different direction" with the Police Department, Schelkoph said. "It had nothing to do with work performance or who the chief is. We want to wish the chief well."

Drake said he was incensed by the announcement of Thompson's severance package.

"That's absolutely ridiculous," Drake said. "The guy is the biggest failure as a police officer. They're giving him $110,000 to go away is what they're doing.

"If they're going to throw that kind of money in times like this, they need to all go," Drake said.

"I think what we're going to have to do is recall the whole commission, because they're all a bunch of idiots if that's what they're doing."

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Schelkoph said the severance pay is the right thing to do.

"If you want to make a change in course without cause, then you have to negotiate through the process of change," he said. "The chief had bought a house in Valley City. He moved from Nevada up here. And so, consequently, the only right thing to do is to make sure that we to make him whole."

Valley City police Lt. David Swenson
Valley City Police Chief Fred Thompson

Related Topics: THOMPSONPOLICE
Helmut Schmidt is a reporter for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead's business news team. Readers can reach him by email at hschmidt@forumcomm.com, or by calling (701) 241-5583.
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