Several Hennepin County Sheriff's Office vehicles arrived at the Little Earth housing complex in south Minneapolis on Tuesday morning.
Reports circulated online that sheriff's deputies were carrying out a "warrant sweep" on residents. The timing was instantly deemed dubious by some, who framed it as calculated voter intimidation on the day Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek faces a primary reelection challenge from Dave "Hutch" Hutchinson, an officer with the Metro Transit Police Department.
Former Minneapolis Council Member Gary Schiff posted about the "sweeps" on Facebook, urging friends and followers to contact a DFL Party hotline if they see "multiple [Sheriff's] vehicles near polling places."
The Sheriff's Office says deputies were not in Little Earth for a "sweep," but to apprehend a lone woman with an outstanding warrant, stemming from her alleged involvement in a recent stabbing. The woman, Angel Corrina, 25, was apprehended and is being held in Hennepin County Jail; she faces numerous criminal charges, including second-degree assault with a dangerous weapon.
Schiff later commented on his own Facebook post to update the story, saying he'd received a call from Stanek himself, whom Schiff says clarified the arrest was "a coincidence."
Schiff noted the primary election is a "historic day" for residents of the Ojibwe housing complex, who he says have the opportunity to vote for a Little Earth resident, a reference to DFL House candidate Margarita Ortega.
Schiff wrote that Stanek "seemed to grasp the problematic optics by the end of the [phone] call." Questions to the sheriff's office to verify Schiff's version of their call were not answered.
In a statement to City Pages, Stanek said: "These are law enforcement officers doing their work, as they do it every day. Protecting the community against a violent offender as the community would want, with respect for all involved."
Teresa Nelson, legal director with the ACLU of Minnesota, says that organization received "unconfirmed" reports about high numbers of "sheriff's deputies driving around." Nelson reached out to Stanek's office and was informed no sweep or otherwise unusual activity was going on today.
"If there had been a sweep, that would be [voter] intimidation, or if there are saturation patrols in a neighborhood... that could constitute intimidation," Nelson says. "It can be difficult to prove intimidation is happening, especially when ... the mandate of the sheriff's office is to be out in the community. I think it can be a fine line, and difficult to prove there's intimidation happening."