Arrest following tussle over girlfriend's cellphone lands officer on leave, in court
MOORHEAD, Minn. — Fargo Police Officer Jeremiah Ferris appeared in a Moorhead courtroom in orange prison garb and shackles Tuesday, June 13, following his arrest on an allegation of domestic assault.
Ferris, 34, appeared subdued as he sat down next to his attorney, who told the judge Ferris was pleading not guilty.
The incident earlier that morning at Ferris' Moorhead home involved jealousy and a tussle over his girlfriend's cellphone, he and the girlfriend had told officers at the scene, according to a police report.
But, for Fargo Police Chief David Todd, it was cause for a news conference at which he issued apologies to the community for Ferris apparently failing to meet the department's standards, to Moorhead police for the awkwardness of arresting a fellow officer, and to the U.S. Police Canine Association for the shadow the incident cast over the group's annual event.
The Fargo Police Department hosted the June 11-13 event, and Ferris, a K-9 officer, had taken part. His alleged lover's quarrel appears to have started there.
Todd said he believes Ferris, who was reportedly intoxicated at the time of the incident, "needs professional help." The chief said Ferris has been placed on administrative leave, pending the results of an investigation.
"Please trust me when I say we will do a thorough investigation and address this incident appropriately," Todd said.
The department's two other dog handlers will help decide what to do with Ferris' canine partner, a Belgian Malinois named Bali, Todd said.
According to a statement of probable cause filed in Clay County District Court:
An officer was dispatched shortly after 1:30 a.m. to Ferris' home on a report of a domestic assault.
They said they arrived to find Ferris on the front steps with a large German shepherd. The officers asked him to secure that dog and another dog, identified as his canine partner.
An initial breath sample indicated his blood-alcohol concentration was .12 percent. In Minnesota, drivers with a level of .08 percent are considered drunk.
Ferris and his live-in girlfriend told officers they had had a dispute during which he had grabbed her cellphone to see what was in it.
"Victim stated Defendant gets aggressive when he drinks and gets in her face because he knows it bothers her due to previous abuse she suffered," the police report said.
The alleged victim said he forced her to the ground several times while taking the phone from her and causing her left elbow and knee to swell.
Ferris told officers that he and the alleged victim hadn't had a physical altercation and that she might have made contact with him after he tucked his right shoulder. Later, he said he may have pushed her away.
Ferris has been charged with domestic assault by committing an act intended to cause fear of bodily harm or death, domestic assault by intentionally inflicting or attempting to inflict bodily harm and brawling. All are misdemeanors.
The alleged victim was in the audience at Ferris' appearance in Clay County District Court Tuesday.
She was asked by Judge Bruce Christopherson to weigh in on whether a no-contact order was advisable. She said she does not feel it's needed.
The judge consented and set bail at $2,000. He required Ferris to notify the court if he moves, to stay in touch with his attorney, and to avoid alcohol and mood-altering non-prescription drugs.
Ferris' next court appearance is scheduled for June 28.