Bonner County Commissioner Makes Citizen’s Arrests

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SANDPOINT, IDAHO – After opening the quarterly budget meeting on January 26, 2024, Commissioner Luke Omodt immediately announced that two citizens in attendance were officially asked to leave. Speaking directly to David Bowman and Richard Cramer, Omodt said, “You are immediately trespassed from this building for a period of one year.” Both men remained seated in the meeting room, and Omodt called for a recess.

Three days earlier, Sandpoint police had been called to the Bonner County Board of Commissioners (BoCC) weekly business meeting in response to a request to remove Cramer. The responding officer concluded that Cramer had broken no law and was allowed back into the meeting.

A statement dated January 25, 2024, from Sandpoint Police Chief Corey Coon to the BoCC and the prosecutor’s office was made “to notify the Bonner County Commissioners that the Sandpoint Police Department will no longer be responding to trespassing complaints at the meetings until they have adopted rules of decorum and a set of procedures and policies on how to remove disruptive individuals from their meetings.”

The next day, Omodt again contacted the Sandpoint Police Department (SPD) to remove Cramer and Bowman. The officers refused to trespass, and Omodt proceeded to execute what is commonly referred to as a citizen’s arrest on both men. According to multiple accounts of the event, Cramer and Bowman were taken to the detention center, processed, and immediately released.

Bonner County Commissioner Luke Omodt

Public records requests were submitted for the police report and any related documents. The Bonner County Sheriff’s Office (BCSO) has no records related to the event. The response from the SPD was, “Your public records request is denied under Idaho State Code 74-105(1) as it is part of an ongoing investigation. All documents regarding the case from 01-26-24 are being denied.”

On Monday, January 30, 2024, Omodt held a press conference in Bonner County. In a brief statement Omodt said, “The safety of the public, including the employees of Bonner County will be maintained.”

Omodt took questions from the press and the public. When asked for more details regarding the trespassing he answered, “Based upon my conversation on Thursday with Chief Coon, he was frustrated because I didn’t follow through on the appropriate process of trespassing from (sic), an individual from a building.” Omodt also stated that he would be in touch with the Idaho State Police, the governor’s office, and several state legislators. It remains unclear what Omodt hopes to achieve by contacting the various entities.

A joint statement by Bonner County Prosecutor Louis Marshall and Bonner County Sheriff Daryl Wheeler was published following Omodt’s press conference. Relevant information from the officials included, “There is a distinction between the chairman of the board ordering someone to leave a meeting and trespassing someone from a public building,” and “…no crimes have been committed in the presence of any of the deputies who have sat through the meetings.”

In an email communication on January 31, 2024, Marshall elaborated, “Additionally, the police officers did not arrest the people based on probable cause, they merely facilitated a citizen’s arrest. This was a warrantless arrest without a probable cause affidavit and review of that affidavit by a prosecutor. This type situation has the highest potential for liability. As such, the liability if said arrest turns out to be flawed falls upon the person making the arrest and potentially the county if Commissioner Omodt was acting in his official capacity.”

In a statement released to the Kootenai Journal, Mr. Cramer said, “On January 26, 2024, I had not spoken a single word, and was respectfully seated when he trespassed me. I was shocked. I was peaceful both before and after he asked me to leave.” Mr. Bowman submitted a statement to Redoubt News which stated, “Omodt’s narrative is that I was arrested by Sandpoint Police after being trespassed, asked to leave, and refusing to leave peacefully. That is a blatant lie. What actually occurred is that I was placed under citizen’s arrest by Omodt for criminal trespass, then taken into custody by Sandpoint Police, peacefully. Sandpoint Police did not arrest me.”

The first attempt of the BoCC to trespass a citizen happened last March. Then Chairman Steven Bradshaw subsequently sought the advice of Prosecutor Marshall regarding removing or trespassing a citizen.  A memo dated March 13, 2023, provided the prosecutor’s legal opinion, “Although the BoCC has the power to trespass individuals from BoCC controlled spaces, the BoCC must exercise its power to trespass cautiously when attempting to trespass citizens from Limited Public Forums (LPFs), such as the RBM, as defined by the first Amendment of the US Constitution.”

The memo went on to state, “It is our opinion that allowing citizens to express their views to government officials during the Public Comment Segment of the RBM serves as an opportunity for members of the public to hear diverse perspectives on matters of public concern.”

Regular business meetings (RBM) of the Bonner County Board of Commissioners are held every Tuesday at 9:00 a.m. in the County Administration Building. Meetings allow participation by Zoom and are live streamed on the county’s YouTube channel.