INVER GROVE HEIGHTS, Minn. (KMSP) - Accusations have been circling for months that the Inver Grove Heights Police Chief had tipped off the target of a search warrant in a Wisconsin theft investigation. But Thursday, the Scott County attorney said there was not enough evidence to prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
It was back in April that Fox 9 first learned Chief Larry Stanger had been suspended from the job, pending the outcome of an investigation. The city administrator said he was the focus of some very serious accusations.
Larry Stanger has been Chief of the Inver Grove Heights Police Department for five years. Last February, as his detectives were working with police in Prescott, Wisconsin on a theft case, the chief's name came up. The suspect in a search warrant said the chief tipped him that the police were coming.
“When you have an allegation by the suspect of a search warrant saying information was obtained by law enforcement concerning that search warrant, it's going to be taken very seriously,” said Ron Hocevar, Scott County attorney.
There was a connection between the chief and the suspect. Prosecutors say Stanger's teenage son was friends with the suspect's son. But the chief told investigators he didn't do anything wrong.
“And according to the chief, he didn't want his son hanging out with the other son and, according to the chief, he put his dad hat on and had a talk with him and saying ‘ya know you really shouldn't be hanging out over there with him.’ But that's it. That's as far as the chief admitted to any involvement with telling his son don't be hanging out with these people,” said Hocevar.
The county attorney says the chief was cooperative, but his son and the suspect's son refused to give statements.
“I would have asked, ‘did your father tell you they were going to conduct a search warrant at this facility?’” said Hocevar.
But in the end, there was not enough evidence to prosecute. The original tipster changed his story, cell phones and tablets could not turn up any connection between the chief and the suspect. But even though there will be no charges, Hocevar says the investigation was still necessary.
“We want law enforcement, especially these days to have absolute integrity, so if you have an allegation like that and that initial connection is established, I think you have to go to these lengths and make sure that it's investigated thoroughly,” said Hocevar.
As for the chief's job, he's been on paid leave since February. City Council will meet on Aug. 22 to either reinstate him or decide if there still needs to be an internal investigation to see if any policies or procedures were violated.
Calls to the chief's home for comment were not returned.