WISHEK — A Fargo man who died during a December struggle with law enforcement in south-central North Dakota attacked a police officer before a sheriff’s deputy attempted to subdue him with a Taser, according to investigative reports.
But the stun gun didn’t shock 40-year-old Daniel Lyndel Seminole, McIntosh County Sheriff Laura Heupel said Monday.
“There was Taser deployment, but there was no connection with him,” she said.
Officials had not, as of Monday, released a cause of death for Seminole, who died shortly after being arrested Dec. 13, 2018, near Wishek, which is about 100 miles southeast of Bismarck. Data from the Taser that was meant to hit him indicated it did not “reflect actual voltage or charge (was) delivered into target,” according to documents obtained through an open records request.
State’s Attorney Mary DePuydt said she couldn’t make a determination regarding potential charges until she reviews all reports in the case, including ones from medical examiners. Heupel said she believes the documents clear the name of her officer, Deputy Conner Monk, who deployed the Taser.
One Taser prong hit a leather belt officers put on Seminole to which they intended to connect his handcuffed hands, and the other prong was not found, according to a North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation report detailing witness interviews, dash camera footage and other evidence. The prong never penetrated Seminole’s skin, and both prongs need to connect with the human body to shock it, Heupel said.
When asked if there was any indication the Taser caused his death, Heupel said no.
"He was not shocked," she said.
Documents indicate there was meth in Seminole’s system at the time of his death and suggest he was experiencing medical problems before his death. Medical examiners observed his arteries hardened and narrowed, the reports said.
The case is considered open and no charges have been filed in relation to Seminole’s death. The Sheriff’s Office hopes to receive the final report in mid-March, Heupel said. The Sheriff’s Office is waiting for toxicology and medical examiner reports to be finalized, which takes about 2 ½ months, she said.
Failed Taser deployment
BCI documents detail how Seminole traveled through three counties after a car crash, why he was arrested and what unfolded in the struggle before his death on Dec. 13.
Officers had put a leather belt around Seminole’s waist because he had unbuckled himself and was slamming his body into the rear door of a Wishek police car while being transported the evening of Dec. 13 to the Burleigh County jail in Bismarck, according to documents obtained by Forum News Service. Seminole was to be booked on suspicion of trespassing and providing false information to officers, according to the BCI reports.
Monk was called to assist Wishek Police Officer Lucas Kuntz, who was taking Seminole to Bismarck but pulled over along state Highway 13 near Wishek. Monk attempted to secure Seminole’s cuffed hands to the belt, but the Fargo man escaped the squad car and attacked Kuntz, hitting the officer with cuffed hands, the report said.
Monk then fired his Taser at Seminole’s back but said he didn’t believe he got “a strong hit,” the reports said.
Signs of medical problems
Family previously said Seminole was involved in a car crash in Kidder County before making his way to Wishek.
The Logan County Sheriff’s Office investigated an abandoned vehicle near the Logan/Kidder County line that went through the fence into a pasture, according to the BCI. Documents state Duane Weigel, a property owner near Napoleon, who appeared to not know Seminole, gave the Fargo man a ride the afternoon of Dec. 13 from south of Napoleon to rural Wishek, where Seminole asked Weigel to let him out.
Seminole appeared to be sweating and out of breath, at times lying in the ditch and walking in the opposite direction of where he said he was going, Weigel told BCI agents.
During the ride, Seminole grabbed his right leg and “kind of screamed,” Weigel said, adding he thought the Fargo man “had a blood clot or was having a stroke.” Seminole declined offers to go to the hospital, the BCI report said.
Monk first came into contact with Seminole on Dec. 13 around 3:50 p.m. that day about 6 ½ miles west of Wishek on state Highway 3 after responding to a welfare check about a man walking along the road and lying in the ditch, according to his incident report. Seminole tried to melt snow in a water bottle by putting it inside his coat and was dehydrated, Monk said.
Monk left after Seminole declined offers for a ride or medical attention, but the deputy met the Fargo man less than two hours later when responding at 5:12 p.m. to a farmstead near Highway 3, where Seminole was arrested, according to the BCI report.
Seminole said he felt sick, lethargic and he needed to throw up while being detained, according to the report. He also said he needed medical attention and “my heart is getting,” but he didn’t finish the sentence, the report said.
Officers gave Seminole water and a puke bag, the BCI said. They even allowed him to smoke a cigarette since he was cooperating, which is why officers handcuffed his hands in front, according to the report.
Seminole said he felt better after that, according to the reports.
Monk and Kuntz were not put on administrative leave in relation to Seminole’s death, Heupel confirmed.
“In the split second when you’re dealing with that, you don’t have time to sit there and think, ‘OK, what should I do?’” Heupel said. “You need to act right away, and I think they acted very well for the situation they had.”