Oakdale police officer accused of making harassing phone calls to sovereign citizen under surveillance

An Oakdale police officer is charged with harassment for allegedly making a series of phone calls while on a surveillance operation, Washington County officials announced on Friday.

Officer Charles Nelson, age 41, is accused of using an app to make dozens of anonymous calls while on the surveillance job in September.

The Washington County Attorney's Office says Nelson and his partner were supposed to monitor a home and report if the man wanted on a warrant left, so a "controlled traffic stop" could be made.

According to the criminal complaint, police thought the wanted man may suffer from schizophrenia and was a "sovereign citizen" -- a group that rejects government authority and is known for confrontation with police.

The criminal complaint reads: "The family of the victim [the wanted man] had been working with the department and other agencies to get help for the resident. The resident's recent actions were escalating and were troubling and dangerous. To add to the volatile nature of the resident, it was also known that the victim possessed firearms and had recently made threats of violence."

Because of the potential dangers of a confrontation, officials say Nelson was ordered not to engage with the man.

However, prosecutors say Nelson used a phone app to make thirty phone calls to the wanted man over the course of a few hours between midnight and 3 a.m.

The wanted man ultimately called 911 and the Minnesota BCA to report the calls.

"The calls escalated the condition and behavior of the resident to such an extent that he exited his residence with a shotgun," a statement from a county spokesperson read. "The Washington County Special Weapons and Tactics Team (SWAT) was deployed, and the resident was eventually apprehended and taken into custody."

Days after the incident, Nelson's partner told his supervisor that Nelson had made the phone calls. At that point, the Oakdale police chief brought in the BCA to review the incident.

According to the criminal complaint, while speaking with BCA investigators, Nelson claimed he made the calls "build rapport" and, according to the BCA he "incredulously stated he did not identify himself because he did not want to scare resident."

Nelson is charged with two counts of harassment and a count of misconduct for the incident. He is currently on administrative leave.