Suicide Files: Bob Fletcher's domestic dispute

This week's cover told the story of the life and death of Ramsey County Sheriff's Deputy Dan Ruettimann, and the file of documents he specifically left behind for this City Pages reporter.

The documents mostly detail Ruettimann's domestic troubles and an Internal Affairs investigation that resulted because of them. However, there is also a packet in the file that contains several incident reports on crimes committed by other Ramsey County deputies.

Included is a domestic dispute call to the home of then-Sheriff Bob Fletcher. The file is a fascinating look into what it's like to respond to a domestic incident involving the sheriff.

The 911 call came in at about 10 p.m. on July 9, 1999. The woman on the line was crying and so distraught she couldn't manage to tell the dispatcher what she needed.

"Begging me not to send anyone or she will be in big trouble," the baffled 911 operator wrote in the call log. "I asked who she was fighting with, she stated her husband."

Then the woman abruptly hung up.

Around the same time, another call came into the St. Paul station from a woman identifying herself as  Sheriff Fletcher's wife. She asked the officer on duty to give her then-Chief Bill Finney's home telephone number. The officer said she couldn't do that, and the woman began to cry. She gave her own number, asked the officer to pass it to Finney, and to tell him it was an emergency. In his own report about the incident, Finney states that he attempted to call her twice, but got no answer.

St. Paul Police officers were given the woman's address. On their way to the house, one officer wrote in his report that he "heard a transmission from a squad identified as 2400 asking the original car to switch to channel 3 for some information. I recognized the voice as Sheriff R. Fletcher."

When officers switched over to channel 3, Fletcher explained they were heading to his home. He'd heard the 911 dispatch on his own radio and told the St. Paul officers that nothing was wrong. He said he would meet them there and explain the situation.

At the home, Fletcher was calm and collected. His wife, however, was red eyed and, according to one officer, appeared to have been drinking. Fletcher explained that his wife was an alcoholic. The couple was fighting because she'd been trying to get to her car; Fletcher had moved it down the street so she couldn't drive drunk.

While Fletcher stayed outside with three officers, another officer went into the house to talk to Fletcher's wife. He noted that she didn't appear to be harmed in any way.

"I asked Mrs. Fletcher if she had been assaulted and if she wanted to make a Police report and she said no. Mrs. Fletcher again said 'you are only making it worse by being here so you should leave.'"

At some point, Sheriff Fletcher came into the home while the officer was still talking to his wife.

The officer writes that he "asked if we could wrap this up because of the number of squads in front of his home. I again asked Mrs. Fletcher if she wanted any assistance from us and she said no."

After Fletcher complained that two of the squad cars ought to leave, the commander on the scene wrote, "I needed to explain to R. Fletcher that this was an SPPD matter and would be handled under my direction and authority as the St. Paul Police Commander."

Two of the officers did eventually leave. Then Mrs. Fletcher came out of the house and asked one of the sergeants to take a walk with her. She explained that all she wanted from the car was her bag.

"She then asked me to call Chief Finney because he was the only police officer she trusted. I explained I would not call Finney for this matter, but that I would get her husband to get her bag back. At that time she stated that she did not want to talk to me and began walking away. She yelled at her husband something to the effect that we were all the same and that this is just another way for him to exert his control over her."

After she went back inside, Fletcher told the officers there wouldn't be any more problems and followed his wife inside. The officers left the scene.

The next day, the commander submitted an additional report on the incident, writing, "In my opinion, Robert Fletcher attempted to manage and influence the SPPD response."

He cited the fact that Fletcher had monitored the 911 dispatch, asked officers to speak privately on another channel, spoke to one of the St. Paul officers as if he were a subordinate -- ordering him to go talk to his wife -- and pressuring the responding police to leave.

No charges were filed in the incident. Jimmy Hereaux, the friend of Deputy Daniel Ruettimann who passed the paperwork to City Pages, said Ruettimann requested this report and others in the file knowing that the matter wasn't criminal. Rather, he "wanted to show how Fletcher treated people," says Hereaux.

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