The 900 Pound Gorilla

Last June, Martin Treptow shot Landen Beard.

Beard – an undercover Robbinsdale cop – was alleged (by Treptow and eyewitnesses) to have been in a road-raging snit.

The rest of the story is very much in contention, although according to witnesses it seems to have gone a little something like this:

  1. Treptow, in an SUV with his pregnant wife and two small children, and Beard, in a sporty little red car, exchanged gestures, words, and aggressive maneuvering.
  2. Treptow pulls up to a stoplight – behind another car, in the right lane. 
  3. Beard pulls up next to him, on the right.
  4. Words are exchanged. What words? We’re not entirely sure, but more on that later.
  5. Someone pulls a gun. Who drew first – Treptow, in his SUV full of kids, boxed in at a stoplight, or Landen Beard? We don’t know – not officially.  More below.
  6. Martin Treptow fired three shots, wounding Beard about as superficially as is possible under the circumstances.
  7. He then drove to a convenience store and reported the shooting, per state law in self-defense cases, apparently not knowing that Beard was an undercover cop.
  8. Dozens of cops from every possible jurisdiction (rumors that cops sped in from Inver Grove Heights and Owatonna are apparently unfounded) responded, apparently believing Martin Treptow was John Dillinger sprung from the grave.
  9. Treptow was arrested, and taken to the Anoka County jail, where…
  10. …the next day, he was released. No arraignment, no charges. He didn’t even have his Concealed Carry permit revoked – which would have taken the Anoka sheriff five minutes, and is basically pro forma in cases when there’s the faintest doubt. Which – after a day of interviewing witnesses, there apparently was not.
  11. And from that first 911 call, at 37 seconds after 2:36PM on June 7, the Treptows’ story has stayed rock-solid consistent, while that of Officer Landen Beard has…well, pretty much remained as undercover as he and all of official Minnesota has claimed he was at that moment.

It apparently took six months to introduce doubt into the case; the Anoka County grand jury yesterday indicted Martin Treptow. Joel Rosenberg has the whole, depressing story:

Well, the book has been thrown at Martin S. Treptow. He’s been charged in Anoka County, with:

1. Drive by shooting. MS 609.66 subd 1e(b) — felony, up to ten years.

2. Reckless discharge in municipality sub 1a(3) — ditto, up to two years.

3. Terrorist threats. 609.713 sub (1) — ditto.

We’ll see what the next step in the railroading of Treptow and the whitewashing of Beard is tomorrow, when Landen Beard appears in Anoka County Court to have his wrist slapped.

Given the recent revelations that the “investigators” in the case have gone to the Saint Paul PD to dig up dirt about…not Martin, but Rebecca Treptow, it looks to the casual observer like the Anoka County “justice” system is covering the backs of their Robbinsdale PD colleagues.

Beard’s indictment is scheduled for today. We’ll see what happens.

Remember – the jury has the final word on this case. This is far from over.

Or it should be.  Martin Treptow isn’t loaded – not even close.  And this case could embarass the hell out of the Robbinsdale PD and, given its behavior for the past six months, Anoka as well.  My two cents:  Anoka County is throwing the book at Treptow, dredging up the worst possible assortment of felonies (and absurd ones, at that), to try to induce him to take a plea bargain rather than spend his family’s entire future defending himself against the combined weight of every law enforcement agency in the Metro.  If Treptow takes the plea, then the story of Officer Landen Beard, and all of the questions his behavior that day introduce into the story, disappear. 

And those questions are big, nasty ones, if you believe in running a police department with a reputation for integrity: 

  1. Why was Landen Beard – a Robbinsdale officere – operating undercover in Anoka? 
  2. Who initiated, and carried on, the “road rage” incident?
  3. Given that one of the three big rules of shooting is “know what your backstop is”, why did Landen Beard point a pistol at a pregnant woman and a car with two small children in the back?
  4. Who drew their gun first – Beard or Treptow? 
  5. If the Anoka Sheriff thought Martin Treptow’s story was convincing enough to let him go on June 8, without even the inconvenience of suspending his carry permit, and yet the Grand Jury “found” evidence of three felonies, who dropped the ball?  Or was it a ball drop at all?

My hunch – and that’s all it is – is that the various jurisdictions involved know that the answers aren’t pretty, and want to do whatever they can to shut Treptow up and get the answers sealed in a court file, never to surface during the careers of anyone in office today.

Again, just a hunch.

If you’d like to help…:

Martin and Rebecca Treptow
Anoka Hennepin Credit Union,
3505 Northdale Blvd. N.W.
Coon Rapids, MN 55448.

UPDATE:  Joel isn’t the only local blog covering things.  Doug at Northern Muckraker – one of the most-improved blogs in the area – has been writing about the Treptow case:

Remember how I had previously written about Fox9 News’s coverage, and how they conveniently forgot to mention Beard’s name in their coverage of the story while putting Treptow’s name and face all over their airwaves, and how they also neglected to disclose their little conflict of interest, as Beard was the fiance (and now, apparently, the spouse) of one of their employees? The games continue, apparently.

Watch this clip of the update report Fox9 did this evening on the story. Notice how they have lots of video shots of Treptow, and how they manage to show a slow pan of the page of the indictment showing his name and full address, not once, but twice, in the report. No “1600 block of Pennsylania Avenue” courtesy for Mr. Treptow, as that is usually how addresses of presumed innocent people are reported.  

  And Flash at Centrisity shows that it’s not just a partisan thing:

I am ready for a rant, but will hold off until Beard faces the music today

As Joel notes, “the music” will likely be an indictment for double-parking. 

Stay tuned. 

UPDATE 2:  I added Point 11 to the timeline, the ugly questions, and bumped the story to the top of the blog for today.

UPDATE 3: Joel Rosenberg emails (and posts at his blog, I see) that Officer Beard’s been indicted:

One count of Terroristic Threats (felony, just in case there’s some gross misdemeanor); case moved to Washington County; next court date Feb 14.  My correspondent is sitting in on the press conference (whose?  I dunno) right now, but will scan the indictment and tell me more later…Treptow’s lawyer not in courtroom; Beard appeared with a bunch of supportive cops in doorkicker gear, to pat him on the shoulder, shake his hand, and wish him well. 

Bumped up again.

33 thoughts on “The 900 Pound Gorilla

  1. I understand that shooting a guy in self-defense is a DEFENSE to be raised in response to the prosecutor’s charges. But the prosecutor has discretion whether to charge, or not.

    Everything about this case screams righteous shoot. I expect Treptow would win if he could afford to fight the government.

    It’s hard to have much respect for the “thin blue line” when this stuff happens.


  2. One correction — and I’m not just quibbling, Mitch — to

    He then drove to a convenience store, per state law in self-defense cases, and reported the shooting, apparently not knowing that Beard was an undercover cop.

    Well, lemme quibble, first. After a self-defense shooting, it’s not legally necessary to drive to a convenience store. 🙂 But that’s just a quibble.

    But the key thing is this; he didn’t drive to the Holiday and then report the shooting; the Treptows immediately called 911. See . Rebecca Treptow’s call came in at 14:36:37; she and her husband remained on the phone for several minutes. The next call to come in to Anoka 911 — one of the witnesses — began eight seconds later. Fast dialing on the part of that witness; the one after that begins after 14:37:11, and Landen Beard’s call comes somewhat later.

    So: the Treptows immediately called 911 and reported having been attacked, and Scott Treptow having shot to protect his wife from the guy who was threatening to shoot her with the gun he had pointed at her face, and their story has remained entirely consistent since then.

    I’ve spoken with Rebecca Treptow a couple of times — more on that in a couple of days — and she comes across as a tough, smart lady, but I don’t know of any reason whatsoever that either she or her husband have the sort of finely-honed improvisational skills to immediately invent a convincing, phony story . . .

    . . . while scared half to death.

  3. Nate, I think you raise an important point, and one that I’m going to address, in detail, at some point. Short form: there are lots of good cops, and some real bad ones, and some real problems with the lack of accountability in the culture. I don’t have any cure, but I think there’s some serious problems.

    And, frankly, as a guy who has friends who are serving and retired police officers who I like and respect, the irresponsibility of some cops infuriates me, and breaks my heart. Good cops don’t deserve to be associated with the irresponsible.

  4. Now that my two minutes are up, I want to second you on the comment about Flash. And not just because he’s a good guy — although he is — but because some of my conservative friends (present company not included) all too often seem to forget that neither basic decency, protection of one’s family, nor a respect for self-defense as a human right, as acknowledged by (not granted by) the 2nd Amendment are things that conservatives have a monopoly on.

  5. Thanks guys. A travesty and injustice like this knows no political boundaries. It is really that simple.

    I was the Jury foreman on a felony assault case several years ago. After we convicted the guy, the judge let us ask questions to debrief ourselves. I specifically asked why the guy didn’t claim self defense, and the judge laid out what was required for a self defense claim. Fight or Flee is very high on the list, and Treptow had no where to go. That simple.


  6. JoelR – I liken the cops circling the wagons around Beard because he’s a cop and therefore no civilian has the moral standing to question anything he does, to the Church sheltering evil priests.

    It erodes public confidence in the system. Eventually, it corrodes the soul.

    Every time the public sees cops lie for each other, give each other “professional courtesy” passes on speeding tickets, abuse their official positions to dig up dirt on complainants and leak it to the press, kick down the wrong doors in the middle of the night, or sic attack dogs on the wrong people, the public’s confidence in the impartiality and professionalism of the law enforcement system is incrementally diminished.

    I certainly can understand why some minority groups have grown so disillusioned with cops that they have nothing but contempt for them. No loss to the cops, they don’t need those people’s approval. But I’m a Reagan Republican. If they lose the support of people like me, they’re done for. Fire ’em all and start over.

    We need a major house-cleaning in the Twin Cities police departments to begin to restore public confidence. That, or concede that the cops are indeed unaccountable jack-booted thugs and move to gated communities.


  7. I’m having trouble finding Fox 9’s news coverage of the Beard indicument on their website. For a story they spent so much time on yesterday, it’s odd that there’s nothing in the follow-up.

    Anybody else having any luck? Am I just a crappy researcher? Or is there a blackout/coverup going on here?

  8. While it seems clear that neither Treptow or Beard are free of some blame (it takes two to have an argument – Treptow certainly could have simply left his window up – and yeah, I’ve rolled mine down too ;).. it also looks like overzealous police people are covering backsides.

    I know you all may not agree, but in addition to ‘thin blue line’ this is a symptom of a larger attitude about being tough on crime, supporting cops, etc.. if they were held accountable for this kind of crap, the thin blue line wouldn’t hold very long. It’s pretty telling that the DA originally didn’t charge him, and now is.. sounds like bowing to pressure from here anyway, but I’ll hold off final judgement until some more facts, as presented in court, come out.

    The final point, you complained about him being held overnight, but not charged. That’s wrong, shouldn’t happen, but we all seem ready to let it happen if it happens to be about “The War on Terrrrr” If it’s wrong, it’s wrong, period. Terroristic threats? Give me a break, sounds like Treptow said he was going to beat the crap out of him – charge or release is right because it’s right, it’s not right some of the time, it’s just right. Government should have the responsibility to prove why it holds someone, it shouldn’t be a secret except in an increadibly extraordinary situation – like the two very high level AQ operatives, I don’t have any issue with them being roughed up a bit – it’s just something that can’t be normal or public treatment, because we wind up with things like.. oh Abu Ghraib, or when we tolerate it from cops, this kind of BS. The cop involved committed the offense, but it is our acceptance that makes the balance think it’s ok, or the DA think they have to back the cop rather than the citizen.

    BTW – I agree virtually entirely with Nate’s comments – except that i’m not a Reagan Republican.. more like a Truman Democrat.

  9. My question to everyone is why isn’t treptow a security guard anymore? I herd that he was fired for discipline issues/ anger management issues. Maybe that played a part? Maybe not?

  10. Peev-
    Abu Ghraib was a crime. People have gone to jail for it. For a long time.
    If a person is given authority by the sovereign People to do specific things, and they use that authority for the benefit of anyone other than the People, they’ve certainly done something wrong and possibly something criminal.
    I think both left and right can agree on that.

  11. Bring on the rant. Beard has been indicted for making terroristic threats. While Treptow is certainly getting the worse deal on charges, this should cost Beard his law enforcement career.

    Maybe Treptow can get him a job in security.

  12. Crap, misread your post Mitch (apologies all), I see Beard was indicted, good thing all in all.

    Terry – agreed, and further, that we can’t just ‘trust’ the government will do well, it requires oversight, locally, federally. I’m not ready to immunize the telecom or internet companies for doing what was probably illegal just because some overzealous politico in DOJ told them to do. Some companies, like Google, told them to get lost, to prove their need in court first, which was the right thing to do. We cannot become so afraid of terrorism that we trade away basic liberty.

  13. BTW Terry, the wrong people went to jail for Abu Ghraib. No, I don’t think those who are in jail shouldn’t be there, but the officers above them were absolved to cover what is, according to friends I’ve got in the service, a real attitude problem (or was – they’ve done a lot to address it since) about abusive, condescending conduct toward Iraqis. The officers had the responsibility to police it, but more, they defacto approved that attitude by either comment, or inaction. That’s the point, when we give little voice to doing what’s right, we also give voice to allowing wrong. Talking about Abu Ghraib as mollycoddling, or Frat Pranks, made us look stupid, ethnocentric, and amoral to the average Iraqi.

    The way to disarm it is to hold public and fair hearings and trials. The fact no officer was charged (other than Karpinski in a witch hunt) – with anything serious, for those who understand the military well enough, spoke volumes about the lack of accountability being sought – which implied a political decision to cover the accountability up rather than take the black eye earned. But they miss that the black-eye is what leads to real and meaningful messages to the public..

    Treptow being indicted.. I’m mixed about.. given Beard was too. I’m trying to give the DA the benefit of the doubt that he did a good job investigating both indictments.. but don’t have a lot of faith in the whole thing.. too many cops with an axe to grind. I hope justice is done and done right, here.

    Btw – Joel, please understand, I too have friends who are cops, 90% plus are really, truly fine people. Some of that 90% have a little bit of a ‘power’ issue, but they control it, unless you really, really piss them off, and even then, they stay within the law, and they are really dedicated to helping. The other 10%.. that’s not so good. It would help the 90%, just like it would help us all, if they (we) were more open and honest about the 10%.

  14. Peevish — 100% agreement. I’ve got friends who are cops, and former cops, and I respect the job — when it’s a job, a profession, and a calling — rather a lot. I could tell some stories — and, come to think of it, have and will.

    I don’t respect thugs, or bullies, and thugs and bullies with badges who hide behind a blue wall aren’t just despicable — although they certainly are — but they’re dangerous.

    And anybody who doubts that could ask, say, Tori Treptow, who sat in terror in the back of that silver SUV while the screaming perp whipped out his gun and pointed it at her Mommy, screaming, according to one witness, “I’m going to fucking kill you; I don’t care about going to jail.”

    That said, I think that when Landen Beard gets to court, he will, like any other accused, deserve the jury’s presumption of innocence, and from his silence and his hiring of a remarkably competent, slick, high-priced attorney (granted, almost certainly paid for by taxpayer dollars), I think he probably now does care, a whole lot, about going to jail.

  15. My question to everyone is why isn’t treptow a security guard anymore?

    Hard to say, but immaterial for purposes of this case.

    I herd that he was fired for discipline issues/ anger management issues.

    I don’t know you you heard it from, but the only real issue is how he behaved at 2:30PM on June 7.

    Did he made an adequate effort NOT to resort to lethal force? (He was in a car, boxed in at a stoplight, with his pregnant wife and kids; flight was likely impossible). Was the force reasonable? (Assuming the witnesses and his story are correct, he responded to Beard pointing a gun at his wife; most juries find that reasonable). Was there a reasonable fear of death or great bodily harm? (Gun! Pointed at wife’s head! From three feet!)

    Was Treptow a “willing participant” in the altercation? As I see it, that might be the only point on which Treptow could be impeached.

    Those four questions are the only ones that matter to a self-defense claim.  Not sure how the other charges play out; I’m no lawyer.  [Calling all my lawyer friends].

    We’ll see.


  16. Btw – Joel, please understand, I too have friends who are cops, 90% plus are really, truly fine people. Some of that 90% have a little bit of a ‘power’ issue, but they control it, unless you really, really piss them off, and even then, they stay within the law, and they are really dedicated to helping. The other 10%.. that’s not so good. It would help the 90%, just like it would help us all, if they (we) were more open and honest about the 10%.

    Very, very true.

    I used to be a cop beat reporter (back when I was a freelancer). I know, or at least knew, a zillion cops. And cops are pretty much like regular people. 1 out of 20 will be a Mother Teresa in a uniform; selfless, supernaturally wise, capable of talking a suicide bomber out of his vest or delivering a baby while under gunfire. Another 1/20 will be the opposite; people who if they weren’t in uniform would be on the wrong side of the law; thumpers, people with power issues, you know the type. The other 18? Regular guys with a very difficult job. Some react to stress better than others. They have their good days and their bad days. Just like the rest of us – except the rest of us don’t have the power to mess up anyone’s life, mostly.

  17. (And when I say 1 out of twenty, I mean “I have no idea what the real numbers are, but like any other population, the outliers are there”)

  18. Peev-
    Sorry, I think I’ve given your Abu Ghraib comment short shrift.
    Who exactly had responsibility for the Abu Ghraib mess? Who had knowledge that innocent Iraqi’s, or guilty ones for that matter, were subject to torture?
    The guys that were doing it, obviously, but who up the chain of command knowingly authorized it? Karpinski? Sanchez? Rumsfield? Bush?
    The reason I ask is that the surest way to get to the truth is to avoid insinuations & name names.
    Otherwise it’s too easy to make accusations that can’t be defended.

  19. When I first heard about this incident, I thought…..

    Training day.

    What the heck was this cop doing so far out of his jurisdiction? And if he was in the right, he would have shot firt.

    Training day.
    Training day.
    Training day.
    Training day.
    Training day.

  20. Since this story happened I’ve spoken with a number of cops I know from various jurisdictions around the metro area. Turns out Beard is universally known as “a hothead”. And the guy routinely does “crazy shit” such as “driving 100 mph through the middle of town just cause he can”.

    With a character like that, I’m not sure he’s going to make the best witness for the prosecution.

  21. Terry,

    I don’t think Sanchez, or Bush, or anyone above Karpinski knew much at all. I DO think the interrogation techniques started at Gitmo and proliferated worldwide. The same tactics were used in Afghanistan and at other prisons in Iraq.

    I think that the likelyhood that officers (say at the Leut/Capt grade) knew is almost beyond logic to question. They are intimately involved in the day to day conduct of their troops, but further, there were clearly soldiers who were uncomfortable with the conduct, who reported the conduct – but no action was taken until the photos hit the streets. I think the decision WAS made, in theatre, maybe, at the Pentagon, more likely, to not expose how widespread this was, and the only way they could do so, was to treat it like it was just some of the non-coms. It just doesn’t work like that.

    I concur about the accusations point, they can’t be defended – but the fact that this happened worldwide is not really refuted – it was mostly ignored. I don’t think indefensible accusations help anything – and they come from places like this blog all too often (sorry Mitch – my opinion). Too often we see words like “some people in Washington want us to cut and run.”

    So, I hope I’ve answered your question. I think the local commanders of those soldiers, the front line officers, had responsibility, as did thier immediate superiors. I also think they probably think they were following orders, since the same conduct occured elsewhere – and it may be they were, but they should have stood up and said “No”, even moreso, they shouldn’t have ever been asked. We later banned many of the things that occured at Abu Ghraib, they didn’t ban them because of a few bad apples at Abu Ghraib, they banned them because they were more prevelant than we generally heard about. Is that Bush’s fault, no, I’m not like people who blame Clinton for the poor security at Los Alamos, being President is being the head of an organization with 15 million moving parts. I would blame Alberto Gonzalez for being a schmuck and writing a memo that essentially approved torture – but frankly, I doubt very much he would have approved of what went on at Abu Ghraib, he’s a boot-licker, but I do think he has some ethics. So no, I don’t blame Sanchez, or Bush, about the highest I’d go is whatever flag officer told Karpinski (or her subordinates) to ‘cooperate’ with the techniques, which is what was reported was told to the troops. My complaint though, is about the general cover-up of the fact that it wasn’t just a few non-coms.. much like the ‘blue wall of silence’. And, I certainly would never convict anyone of anything based on comments from soldiers on the ground, but I would take away a feeling that we might have some soldiers (or contractors), just like in Vietnam, who have or had, a real attitude problem.. I think we’ve already seen that with Blackwater.

  22. Yup. The issue isn’t whether or not Beard’s friends and political allies can slime the Treptows — like that’s news? — but whether Treptow properly engaged in an act of self-defense.

    Sure, it’s embarrassing to the cop community that the roadrager he shot — while said roadrager was pointing a gun at his pregnant wife — carries a badge, but sliming (and indicting) the victim makes it worse, not better.

  23. Part of the problem in trying to get a guess as to the percentages of jack-booted thugs among the cops is, alas, the stereotypical — and entirely real, if by no means universal — blue wall of silence. (I don’t know what the percentages are, either.)

    The only time that seems to be regularly pierced is when there’s a very high school-like feud going on between two rival gangs agencies with overlapping jurisdictions and agendas. (See, for example, the SPPD/Ramsey County thing.) But those tiffs seem to be, by and large, regularly settled privately.

    To further complicate things — not that they aren’t complicated enough — many (I’m strongly guessing the vast majority) of complaints against police are utterly bogus (see the Porter case). Which tends to make it much easier to hide the very real ones.

    It’s broke. The Internal Affairs model is pretty clearly just about the worst possible way to police the police, but that’s been so deeply institutionalized that I despair of it ever being fixed.

  24. RE: the willing participant aspect of the self-defense claim.

    Give full credit to Beard’s story – Treptow cut him off in traffic, yelled at him, gave him the finger, and drove off.

    And drove off! Treptow broke contact. Treptow left the scene of the conflict.

    Beard initiated the pursuit. Beard followed Treptow until Treptow ran out of road, blocked at the stop light. Beard boxed in Treptow by pulling up on the right shoulder. Beard exited his vehicle and approached Treptow’s vehicle. Beard pursued Treptow from the initial conflict all the way to the scene of the shooting.

    These are the facts as they were initially reported, confirmed by eye witnesses, and never disputed by Beard.

    Who was the unwilling participant in the fight?


  25. Just had a wild thought, thinking outside the box . . .

    The Chief says Beard was acting as a police officer when the shooting occurred. So a police officer pursues a traffic violator, boxes in his vehicle, and approaches the vehicle identifying himself as a police officer (we’re believing Beard’s version, now).

    Under those facts, hasn’t the traffic violator been “seized” by law enforcement in the sense that he’s not free to leave the scene? If Treptow had crashed through the stopped cars and driven off, wouldn’t that have been a crime — Fleeing A Peace Officer and Leaving the Scene of an Accident?

    Once the officer has prevented Treptow from leaving, he’s entitled to his Miranda rights before questioning — is that what Beard was shouting when he approached the vehicle?

    If Treptow was “seized” for Constitutional purposes, the functional equivalent of being “under arrest,” doesn’t that automatically render Treptow “unwilling” for self-defense purposes? He wasn’t free to leave the scene because a law enforcement officer had seized him. He could not retreat without committing a crime; hence, he had no duty to retreat and must be considered an unwilling participant in the fight.

    Okay, it’s a flight of fancy. But it might make a nice “technicality” for the judge to let Treptow off the hook while avoiding making cops upset by ruling that Beard f***d up from start to finish.


  26. I think that if the judge wants to do justice in this case, he’s got easier and simpler ways than the one you suggest, Nate.

    And while I’m of the opinion that a judge should mainly be a referee, who makes sure that the rules are followed, I think it’s entirely possible for one to, in this case, do justice and follow the rules in letter and in spirit.

  27. I need to read the statutes – but I am wondering if anything Treptow did qualifies as “driveby shooting” at all, and if that indictment isn’t ripe for a summary dismissal?

    Like I said, i don’t know, and need to read up on the law.

  28. Peev-
    You wrote:
    “They are intimately involved in the day to day conduct of their troops, but further, there were clearly soldiers who were uncomfortable with the conduct, who reported the conduct – but no action was taken until the photos hit the streets.”
    But this timeline
    (from the CBC) shows that an Army investigation of prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib began on Jan 16, 2004, months before the Abu Ghraib photos were made public. Karpinski was suspended before the pics were made public, less than a week from the day that the accusations of abuse were made to army investigators, so this obviously wasn’t a sham investigation. That doesn’t mean that the pentagon wouldn’t prefer that it be dealt with quietly.
    We are very far off topic . . .

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