Rodney Brossart: Terrorizing and Theft Charges – 6 Cows Visit Brossart Property: Historic – Judge Upholds Drone Over Brossart Property

Major Nidal Hasan isn’t a terrorist. It follows that if the Fort Hood Killer is not a terrorist he didn’t “terrorize,” but North Dakotan Rodney Brossart did when he refused to return a neighbors 6 cows (referred to as a herd) which had wandered onto his 3,000 acre property – then, armed, he refused to let law enforcement onto his property. An unmanned Air Force drone was called in with the permission of Homeland Security. The drone reported back to the local police, and when Brossart, his wife and adult children were unarmed, law enforcement SWAT moved in. Today, a North Dakota court upheld the historic “first-ever” use of an unmanned-drone-enabled arrest of a private U.S. citizen.

Rodney Brossart

Charged with theft of property when the cows chose to visit the Brossart’s, seems a stretch. Maybe the cows were running from mistreatment by owners, or maybe they were squatters, and we all know squatters have rights.

I can find reports saying Brossart is a farmer, but nothing confirming that he also owned cattle. Six cows show up, he feeds them and will not return them until he is reimbursed for not letting them starve or walking them back home, or letting owners on his property to load them up and haul them away. Possession is no longer 9/10th of the law.

The Brossart family is known to be “anti-government,” (far from being alone on that one these days). No word on whether they are also tax cheats. Brossart and the kids were participants in a “long, armed standoff with Grand Forks police.” That’s where the “terrorizing” comes in.

US News and World Report, Jason Koebler (read it all here):

Brossart allegedly refused to return the cows, which led to a long, armed standoff with the Grand Forks police department….

Definitely not a cool move. When a SWAT team attempted to enter the property, the Brossart’s met police with guns. The drone send pics back to law enforcement showing when the Brossart family de-armed themselves, then SWAT moved in.

Brossart is believed to be the only American citizen who was arrested with the assistance of a drone on U.S. soil. John Villasenor, of the Washington, D.C.-based Brookings Institution, says the legality of domestic drone use likely stems from two Supreme Court cases that allow police to use “public, navigable airspace” for evidence gathering.

In April, Brossart told U.S. News that he thought the SWAT team use of the drone was “definitely” illegal. Some estimates suggest that there may be as many as 30,000 unmanned drones operated in the United States by 2020 for uses such as wildfire containment and surveillance, law enforcement, and surveying.

It’s wasn’t really about “property theft.” Here’s SWAT Team leader, Sgt. Bill Macki’s story: 

“I can’t really get into what the dispute was over,” Macki said. “What I can tell you is the SWAT team wasn’t there over a property dispute. The SWAT team was called out to render assistance reference to armed subjects. … And using the unmanned aerial vehicle seemed appropriate in this instance.”

Police apparently felt retrieving 6 cows for someone was worth all this, even though it was well known that the Brossart’s did not steal the cows. It’s a low-population area. Maybe ‘someone knew someone.’ Just my opinion here, but unless there is more to this story about past, illegal Brossart behavior, the cow owners should have reimbursed the foster family, but since they didn’t, they should pay the taxpayer for the expense of law enforcement time, and use of the drone.

But I get a small hint that the Brossarts were trouble – not invited to many potlucks.

October 2011 (about 4 months after the drone episode):

Lee [Grand Forks Herald writer] reports the Brossarts want to harvest their soybean and corn crops before its too late, but they fear being arrested on outstanding bench and arrest warrants.

Brossart, 55, and his wife Susan and seven of their eight children live on the farm that includes a house, trailer home and two RV trailers.

Brossart said he questioned why so many people were worried about how he would react to being arrested. He says the family no longer has any guns and that “we are good people, we are not violent people,” he told the Herald…

According to court documents, when served with a search warrant by Nelson County deputies, Rodney refused to give the cattle back and said if they came onto his property they wouldn’t be coming back.

There are several reports of Rodney being tased…one said while in a puddle of water. The October report linked above says once in the cop car, he caused $1000 in damage.

The three (Brossart boys) are charged with terrorizing in the standoff, a Class C felony, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison and/or a $5,000 fine.

Rodney is charged with one count of terrorizing, a Class C felony, one count of theft of property, one count of criminal mischief, one count of failure to comply with estray order (for the cattle) and one count of preventing arrest.

The Brookings Institute’s Peter Singer, says drones come in passenger plane size to hummingbird size and they aren’t going away – can’t “put this genie back in the box.”

  • Another Ruby Ridge. America is now a police state. No wonder gun sales are at an all time high.

  • GoneWithTheWind

    I am not sure I agree with the message here. Where the cows his? If not he certainly had no right to keep them. Since he refused to corporate with law enforcement why then would overflying his property in an unmanned drone or a manned helicopter make any difference. And once it was confirmed that he had the cows what other possible outcome could he or anyone expect but to have the police come and arrest him?

  • pfc

    N Dakota law says that the property owner is to be reembursed for any feed or damage by the cattle before they are returned, no such arrangement was made and to force a return order sounds like someone had LE favoratism and or prejudice applied. They lived outside the grid and the grid would not tolerate it….fascism!