County District Court File No. 03-CR-18-265
Ellison, Attorney General, St. Paul, Minnesota; and Brian W.
McDonald, Becker County Attorney, Kristal E. Kadrie,
Assistant County Attorney, Detroit Lakes, Minnesota (for
Cathryn Middlebrook, Chief Appellate Public Defender,
Jennifer Workman Jesness, Assistant Public Defender, St.
Paul, Minnesota (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Cochran, Presiding Judge; Johnson,
Judge; and John Smith, Judge.
state-licensed peace officer employed by a federally
recognized Indian tribe is authorized to seize and arrest a
person outside the boundaries of the tribe's reservation
for an offense that occurred outside the boundaries of the
reservation if the officer is within the course and scope of
employment, as provided by section 629.40, subdivision 3, of
the Minnesota Statutes.
driving on a county highway in rural Becker County, Raymond
Joseph Bellcourt failed to stop for a school bus with an
extended stop-signal arm and flashing lights while the bus
driver was dropping off schoolchildren. Minutes later,
Bellcourt was seized in Becker County by a police officer
employed by the White Earth Band of Ojibwe. The tribal police
officer cited Bellcourt for the offense of failure to stop
for a school bus with an extended stop-signal arm and
flashing lights. Bellcourt later moved to suppress an
admission he made during the seizure on the ground that the
tribal police officer did not have authority to seize him
outside the boundaries of the White Earth reservation for an
offense that occurred outside the reservation. The district
court denied the motion. We conclude that the tribal police
officer's seizure of Bellcourt is valid because the
tribal police officer is a state-licensed peace officer and
was acting in the course and scope of his employment.
Therefore, we affirm.
late afternoon of January 19, 2018, two school buses were
northbound on county highway 21 in rural Becker County,
dropping off schoolchildren near their homes. The first
school bus stopped on the highway to allow four
schoolchildren to disembark. The second school bus stopped
behind the first. The driver of the first school bus extended
the stop-signal arm on the left side of the bus and activated
the bus's flashing lights. As two children were in front
of the first school bus and two other children were stepping
off, a pickup truck with an attached snowplow passed on the
right shoulder at a high rate of speed and knocked over a
mailbox. The driver of the pickup stopped briefly and spoke
with the driver of the first school bus before leaving the
scene and continuing to drive northward.
Becker County sheriff's department received a call about
the incident with a description of the pickup and its
license-plate number. The caller reported that the pickup was
heading north on county highway 21 toward the White Earth
reservation. The Becker County dispatcher relayed the report
to a sheriff's deputy, who went to the location of the
incident. The Becker County dispatcher also contacted the
dispatcher of the White Earth police department to request
assistance in searching for the pickup and its driver. The
White Earth dispatcher communicated the request to White
Earth tribal police officers.
time, Officer Bryan Byrne of the White Earth police
department was on duty and on patrol on the White Earth
reservation, driving south on highway 21. He later testified
that, when he heard the dispatcher's report, he was
approximately three to four miles from the location of the
incident. He decided to take the call and to "keep [his]
eyes open" for the pickup. He continued driving south on
highway 21 until he reached the small community of Richwood,
which he described as being "right at the south line of
the reservation" and "actually right on the
line," although he also testified that county highway 21
"dips down and . . . catches [county highway] 34 right
by the store and then it comes back up onto the
reservation." Officer Byrne further testified that he
"was going to circle around [county highway] 34 after I
checked the store." The parties agree that Richwood and
the intersection of county highway 21 and county highway 34
are not on the White Earth reservation.
Byrne drove through the parking lot of the Richwood Store and
saw a pickup truck with an attached snowplow. He parked his
squad car next to the pickup. He talked to the driver of the
pickup and asked about the reported incident concerning the
school bus. The driver, Bellcourt, showed Officer Byrne his
driver's license, admitted that he had not stopped for
the school bus's stop-signal arm and flashing lights, and
explained that his brakes had failed. Officer Byrne issued
Bellcourt a citation for three misdemeanor offenses,
including failure to stop for a school bus with an extended
stop-signal arm and flashing lights, in violation of Minn.
Stat. § 169.444, subd. 1 (2016).
Becker County sheriff's deputy later interviewed the two
school bus drivers. The driver of the first school bus stated
that, when Bellcourt passed on the right shoulder, two
children had stepped off the first school bus and were
standing in front of it, and one child was standing on the
ground next to the open door. The driver of the second school
bus stated that he was stopped approximately 250 feet behind
the first school bus, with his four-way lights activated,
when he saw the pickup approaching in his rear-view mirror.
He stated that the pickup passed the second school bus on the
left side before swerving to the right and passing the first
school bus along the right shoulder.
following month, the state filed a complaint in which it
charged Bellcourt with the gross-misdemeanor offense of
failure to stop for a school bus with an extended stop-signal
arm and flashing lights by passing on the right-hand side, in
violation of Minn. Stat. § 169.444, subd. 2(b)(1), and
the gross-misdemeanor offense of failure to stop for a school
bus with an extended stop-signal arm and flashing lights by
passing while a child is outside the bus, in violation of
Minn. Stat. § 169.444, subd. 2(b)(2).
April 2018, Bellcourt moved to suppress the statements he
made to Officer Byrne in the parking lot of the Richwood
Store, including his admission that he did not stop, and to
dismiss the complaint. The district court conducted an
omnibus hearing in May 2018. The state presented the
testimony of Officer Byrne. He testified that he is licensed
by the State of Minnesota as a peace officer, that he has
been employed by the White Earth police department for
approximately one and one-half years, and that he has 17
years of prior law-enforcement experience. When asked whether
there are "circumstances where you go off the
reservation to assist other officers," he answered in
the affirmative and provided an example of a recent incident
in which he provided assistance directing traffic in Becker
County during a response to a shooting. Officer Byrne also
testified about his response to the report concerning
Bellcourt, as described above.
state also introduced five exhibits without objection: two
surveillance video-recordings created by cameras inside the
school bus; audio-recorded statements of the two school bus
drivers; a video-recording of Officer Byrne's
interactions with Bellcourt in Richwood that was created by
Officer Byrne's body-worn camera; police reports; and an
eight-page agreement between Becker County and the White
Earth Reservation, entitled "Cooperative Law Enforcement
Agreement" and dated October 29, 2004.
cooperative agreement states in its preamble that it is
entered into "pursuant to the provisions of Minnesota
Statute Sections 626.93, Subd. 4 and 471.59." The first
section of the agreement states that its purpose is to:
a. Coordinate, define, and regulate the provision of law
enforcement services and to provide for mutual aid and
cooperation between the Reservation and the County relating
to enforcement of the laws of the State of Minnesota, and
laws of the White Earth Reservation, on that portion of the
White Earth Reservation that lies within Becker County.
b. Establish a process by which the Reservation and the
County will work together cooperatively to enhance public
safety efforts on the White Earth Reservation.
c. Preserve the parties' respective jurisdictions on the
White Earth Reservation so that neither the Reservation nor
the County is conceding any claim to jurisdiction by entering
into this cooperative agreement.
second section of the agreement provides, "The White
Earth Reservation is authorized, pursuant and subject to
Minnesota Statute Section 626.93, to enforce the criminal
laws of the State of Minnesota within that portion of the
White Earth Reservation that lies ...