Any charges that may be brought against Otter Tail County Sheriff Deputy Kelly Backman will be coming from the Clay County Attorney’s Office according to Otter Tail County Attorney Michelle Eldien.

Backman was one of two deputies involved in a chase through Fergus Falls Oct. 2 which resulted in the arrest of a wanted man, 31-year-old Cody Freitag but took the lives of Steve and Diane Christenson of Fergus Falls in a two-vehicle collision at the intersection of North Union and West Cavour avenues.

Freitag had warrants out for his arrest that included felony drug crimes, felony theft, felony fleeing, domestic assault and obstructing the legal process prior to Oct. 2. Freitag has since been charged for four felonies — two for fleeing a peace officer and two for criminal vehicular homicide. He is presently being held at the Otter Tail County Jail. 

Contacted at his office in Moorhead Monday by the Daily Journal, Clay County Attorney Brian Melton explained that he had not had time to review any charges against Backman and for that reason, could not provide comment. 

Eldien was also unable to provide comment because of the conflict of interest but explained: “I did get reports to review but I conflict those out. We don’t charge our own officers. Typically if anything needs to be reviewed in that manner it would be sent to another agency and that has happened and it is in Clay County. We are waiting to hear (but) have not heard to date. I would hope soon because I think it has been about three weeks as of Tuesday since we sent it for review.” 

The evidence Melton is being asked to review came from an investigation by the Fergus Falls Police Department.

“Because of a conflict we don’t get involved in discussions about what should be done or how it’s done until the decision is made one way or another, then it becomes public,” Eldien said. 

Eldien said Fergus Falls Chief of Public Safety Kile Bergren is the lead officer in the case.

The only comment Bergren was at liberty to give to the Daily Journal was that his department’s investigation is complete and it has been forwarded to the Clay County Attorney’s Office.

Bergren said he does not have the conflict of interest which Otter Tail County officials have.

“It is not uncommon for one agency to investigate something for another agency when there is a conflict and the same thing when it comes to prosecution,” Bergren said. “We’re just the factfinders, we gather the information and the evidence.”

 

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