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Minneapolis firefighter pleads not guilty to drug, gun charges

A Minneapolis firefighter has pleaded not guilty to federal charges that he conspired to deal cocaine for two years while armed with multiple weapons.

A Minneapolis firefighter has pleaded not guilty to federal charges that he conspired to deal cocaine for two years while armed with multiple weapons.

Brandon Josiha Granger, 34, entered the plea during a 12-minute initial appearance before Magistrate Judge Tony Leung on Friday in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis. He was indicted Dec. 12 on three counts, including conspiracy to distribute 5 kilograms or more of cocaine, possession of cocaine with intent to distribute, and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime.

His attorney, Ryan Pacyga, said Friday that it's too early to say whether his client, who is free on a $20,000 bond, will take the case to trial.

"Brandon's a well-respected member of the Minneapolis Fire Department. He's a family man that volunteers his time feeding the homeless, and this case has turned his life upside down," Pacyga said. "It's at the very early stages, but we are encouraged that he was not taken into custody, and we look forward to making sure he gets a fair process in court."

Granger couldn't be reached for comment Friday.


Granger, a firefighter since 2006, most recently worked out of Fire Station 7, at East Franklin and 20th Avenue S. He was placed on paid administrative leave Oct. 21. The indictment followed about six weeks later.

"I am deeply concerned by these very serious allegations," Minneapolis Fire Chief Alex Jackson said in a prepared statement. "The people of this community trust us with their lives and their property. That is a trust we must continue to earn every day. I believe the women and men of the Minneapolis Fire Department perform their duties with courage, professionalism and respect, and I hope that this isolated incident in no way overshadows the integrity of their work or the department."

The four-page indictment alleges that Granger conspired to distribute 5 kilograms or more of cocaine from 2009 to Oct. 17, 2011 in Minnesota and beyond. The indictment alleges that an Oct. 17 search of his south Minneapolis home uncovered at least seven guns, including a semi-automatic handgun and pistol, an assault rifle and a 12-gauge shotgun. Granger allegedly possessed the weapons "during and in relation to a drug trafficking crime."

Authorities also seized $4,000 in cash from Granger's Chevrolet Tahoe and $5,000 in cash from his home.

Pacyga said his client is accused of participating in a drug ring, but not of being "a runner or a kingpin." He said no others have been indicted in connection with Granger's case.

Mark Lakosky, president of the firefighters union, said he couldn't recall a firefighter indicted on any federal charge. He said he read the indictment and "it's pretty nasty," he said.

"If it is true, it's unfortunate for this fire department and the people who work for it," he said. "Our job is helping people. We don't condone any behavior or action that brings a negative disturbance in people's lives."

Lakosky said he saw Granger frequently because they work in the same district, which includes Station 7. He said Granger was quick to perform his station duties and received satisfactory job evaluations. Granger kept to himself and didn't hang around with many firefighters when off duty, Lakosky said.


"Who knows if there were any signals about what was going on in his life?" Lakosky said. "Some people make bad choices, but the good work of our nearly 400 firefighters outweighs this. It's a bummer."

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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