Ramsey County domestic violence sweep leads to 12 arrests

Police officers Mike Dollerschell (in back), Chad Dagenais, left, and Steve Smith, right, arrested 35-year-old James Zapata on an outstanding warrant on St. Paul's West Side. (MPR Photo/Tim Nelson)

St. Paul police Sgt. Jesse Mollner spent most of the day conducting house-to-house searches. He and a squad of police probation officers worked from a list of domestic violence suspects, warrants in hand.

At one St. Paul residence, police found Ken Shaw, 55, who seemed unsurprised to see law enforcement.

Police say he was charged for domestic abuse after allegedly hitting a girlfriend with his cane. He was one of the men and women arrested in a day-long push to round up more than 100 suspects, loose ends left by what police consider some of the most difficult and complex cases.

Family violence cases are marked by victims who help perpetrators, danger that's not always obvious, and elusive facts.

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Dozens of law enforcement personnel -- including sheriff's deputies, probation officers, as well as representatives from Immigration Customs Enforcement Fugitive Operations, U.S. Marshal's Service -- spent the day tracking down domestic abuse suspects.

The sweep organized by the Ramsey County Sheriff's Office was part of a nationwide effort started by the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office in Oregon 11 years ago. It now covers 20 states and involves more than 200 police agencies. Last year police sought 3,500 suspects in 22 states. The one-day National Family Violence Apprehension Detail is meant to give what is normally a very private and sometimes secretive issue a public face.

In St. Paul, Sgt. Mollner said the sweep is more than a law enforcement action.

"We want the victims to know that we are out in the community, it's not just a matter of them making reports and hoping something is done, this sends a message out in the community that these people are a priority for us," Mollner said. "Even the people we don't pick up today, we're still confident that they're going to get this message."

By the afternoon, 12 men and women were arrested according to the Ramsey County Sheriff. There were 92 family violence arrest warrant service attempts over six hours.