Was it a crime? North Dakota agency probing death of Valley City DUI suspect found immobile on jail floor
VALLEY CITY, N.D. — The North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation is looking into whether a criminal act was to blame for the death of 72-year-old Warren Lindvold, who died after he was arrested July 15 by Valley City police on suspicion of DUI.
Barnes County State's Attorney Carl Martineck issued a statement Friday, Aug. 17, saying the Barnes County sheriff has asked the BCI to investigate the circumstances of Lindvold's death, which occurred in a Fargo hospital on July 21, six days after his arrest and detention in the Barnes County Jail.
Cash Aaland, an attorney representing Lindvold's family, said Friday that the BCI doesn't do such investigations unless it is looking into possible criminal activity and only after the probe has been approved by the state attorney general's office. The attorney general's office declined to comment for this story.
Martineck said in his statement that the purpose of the BCI investigation is to determine whether a criminal act was to blame for Lindvold's death, and he provided the following timeline of events surrounding Lindvold's arrest:
Valley City police officers stopped Lindvold's vehicle at 12:42 a.m. on July 15.
Lindvold, a retired farmer who was never married and lived alone, was arrested for DUI and taken to the police station for further DUI testing at 1:06 a.m. Camera footage from the traffic stop indicated Lindvold was not successful in providing a useable breath sample at the scene.
The footage also indicated that after Lindvold was handcuffed he expressed to police he was in extreme pain and had difficulty moving.
Martineck's statement said Lindvold was taken to the Barnes County Jail about 1:20 a.m. on July 15, where he continued to complain of neck and shoulder pain and difficulty moving.
Before being booked into the jail, Lindvold was taken by ambulance about 2 a.m. to Mercy Hospital in Valley City and was returned to the jail about 3 a.m. after being medically cleared by hospital staff.
Martineck's statement asserts that at that time Lindvold walked into the jail "under his own power, with the assistance of VCPD officers." After being booked in, Lindvold complained he was unable to stand.
Jail video and a police report indicate jail staff and a police officer carried Lindvold to a cell.
During regular rounds, jail staff observed Lindvold sleeping in his bed and then on the floor. Lindvold later informed jail staff that he was unable to get off the floor or move his hands and that he couldn't feel his arms or legs, Martineck's statement said.
An ambulance was requested by jail staff at about 8 a.m.
Martineck's statement said a preliminary autopsy report indicated Lindvold's death was caused by a broken neck. The final report is expected within four to six weeks.
Aaland said Martineck has been very professional to work with and responsive to questions from Lindvold's family. He also said Martineck's statement "is fair, as far as it goes."
Aaland said he is privy to information he is not at liberty to share, but he said more information is likely to come forth once the BCI probe is completed.
Along with the BCI probe, the North Dakota Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation is looking into the circumstances surrounding Lindvold's stay at the jail, though details of that investigation are not yet available.
Barnes County Coroner David Hochhalter previously confirmed that Lindvold was at Sanford Medical Center in Fargo for six days and that he was brought to the hospital with a neck fracture. It remains unclear how Lindvold suffered the neck fracture and when it happened.
A family friend previously told The Forum that Lindvold was disabled by a progressive arthritis condition he'd dealt with since high school.
In the video of Lindvold's arrest, he can be heard telling police: "Please, I beg you. I'm in constant pain here." At another point he said: "Let me die. Uff da."
A police officer can be heard in the video telling Lindvold that the handcuffs would be removed once they reached their destination.
Valley City Attorney Lilie Schoenack has said officers handled a difficult situation to the best of their ability, and she said there is no need for disciplinary action.
"There's no wrongdoing on anyone's part. It's just an unfortunate situation," she said.