FARGO – Yanick Tade was excited to leave for Birmingham, Ala., where he would attend a six-week summer program for aspiring health professionals.
The 20-year-old and his father had collected his belongings from Concordia College in Moorhead, where he’ll be a sophomore this fall, and checked into a hotel the night before his flight.
The morning of June 3, upon arriving at Fargo’s Hector International Airport, they discovered a mix-up with Tade’s plane ticket.
An employee advised them to take a seat while a new ticket for a later flight was issued and to watch for email confirmation.
As the two sat, eyes glued to their phones, three uniformed police officers approached.
One ordered Tade to stand and turn around, then handcuffed him, saying he was under arrest.
“I was pretty scared. I knew I was innocent, that I hadn’t done anything wrong,” Tade said in a phone interview from his family’s home in Windom, Minn.
He also explained the incident in a recently posted Facebook video that’s been viewed at least 22,000 times.
It was a case of mistaken identity that left Tade and his father shaken, and one that was resolved after officers checked his identification.
Fargo police replied to questions about the incident by email only.
They explained that officers were seeking a suspect in a domestic disturbance from earlier that morning, and had word the person was due to fly out of Fargo that day.
They said Tade matched the description of their suspect, who has violent tendencies and a high escape risk.
Tade and his father, Noel Tade, said one of the officers drew a gun during the encounter – a claim Fargo police deny. It left the father and son not knowing how to react.
“I never have any dealings with police my entire life,” the elder Tade said.
Race a factor?
Yanick Tade, who is black, said he doesn’t want it to seem like race played a role in the incident, but that police simply had the wrong person.
He was born in the Central African Republic and came to the U.S. when he was about 5 years old, he said.
The family lived in the Walcott-Colfax, N.D., area, where Yanick’s mother, Sarah Larsen Tade, was a pastor, before they relocated to a different congregation in Windom.
However, Tade thinks the incident could have been avoided if officers had asked for identification from him at the start.
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Police maintain they had to act quickly because of their suspect’s history of violence. They also described the suspect as “physically fit,” a characteristic that Tade does possess.
He’s on the track team at Concordia, and played football and wrestled in high school.
As for schooling, he’s a neuroscience major for now, with a possible eye on medical school down the line.
The father and son’s recollection and that of the officers involved differ in several ways.
Fargo police said as they approached Tade that morning, they called him by the suspect’s name, and for whatever reason, Tade acknowledged them.
Tade said he only recalls an officer asking, “How’s it going?” before ordering him to stand. His father heard nothing before the arrest.
The elder Tade said when he asked why his son was being arrested, a gun was pointed his way and the officer shouted “Stay away from me!”
When he pointed out Tade was his son, the officer said, “He beat up his girlfriend last night,” to which the father replied, “No, we stayed in a hotel room together.”
Contrary to the father and son’s account, Fargo police said one officer was holding a Taser in case force was necessary, no guns were displayed, and that the unarmed airport security guard indicated he did not see any of the officers with a pistol out.
Police also said there’s no indication the officers violated department policy or Tade’s constitutional rights.
‘Just trying to do their job’
There is no surveillance video of the June 3 encounter. Shawn Dobberstein, executive director of Fargo’s Municipal Airport Authority, said the airport’s surveillance system purges video after about three weeks.
Tade said he didn’t post his Facebook video until early August because he was busy with the summer program and research at Concordia, and didn’t reflect upon the incident until he went home to Windom.
He made the video, he said, because friends kept asking what happened and misinformation was being spread.
His father said he considered talking with police about the incident, but his son wanted to focus instead on his upcoming trip and studies.
“If he’s that brave to tell me that, I better let him go and do it,” Noel Tade said.
While the experience was “extremely hurtful” and one Yanick Tade said he’ll never forget, he won’t view law enforcement any differently.
“I know in most instances, they’re just trying to do their job. Everybody makes mistakes,” Tade said.