Grand Forks sheriff’s deputies nab suspects using unmanned aircraft in first-ever night flight


By Brandi Jewett / Grand Forks Herald

The Grand Forks County Sheriff’s Department apprehended its first set of suspects using an unmanned aircraft at night after a traffic stop and foot chase Sunday.

The flight marks the first nighttime mission the agency has flown, and officials say it could even be the first of its kind in the country, according to a news release.

Arrested and taken into custody after the aircraft’s deployment were Matthew Franklin Dalbey, 20, of Emerado, N.D., and Cole Andrew Schmidt, 20, of Larimore, N.D.

Dalbey faces charges of reckless driving, minor in consumption, refusing to halt, and driving under the influence. Schmidt faces charges of minor in consumption and refusing to halt.

A third suspect, Sawyer Smith of Hatton, faces charges of refusing to halt, the sheriff’s office news release said. A fourth suspect’s identity was not released because of that person’s involvement in an ongoing investigation, according to the release.

The night leading up to the flight began with Sgt. Andy Schneider stopping a pickup driven by Dalbey about 2:20 a.m. near Larimore.

The four occupants exited the vehicle and fled. Both the police dog unit and UAS team were asked to assist.

Police dog Sheeba and her handler, Cpl. Mike Lee, were unable to locate the suspect, leading officers to use the unmanned aircraft.

The Qube aircraft located one of the suspects in a CORN FIELD, but he or she escaped before deputies arrived. A second flight found another suspect.

The sheriff’s department is authorized by the Federal Aviation Administration to fly unmanned aircraft in 16 northeast North Dakota counties. It has had the ability to conduct night flights since March 2014.