FARGO - The owner of a payloader seized by the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation in 2014 is now suing the agent accused of unjustly giving it away.
Darrell Schrum, who runs a trucking and gravel business in Forbes, has filed a lawsuit in federal court alleging that Supervisory Special Agent Arnie Rummel violated his constitutional rights when the BCI destroyed the door to Schrum's shop, disabled a security camera, seized the payloader and transported it out of state.
Schrum is seeking unspecified damages, including the cost of the payloader, repairs he made to it and attorney fees, according to the suit, which was filed Aug. 22.
The long-running payloader flap started in May 2014 when Rummel secured a warrant to seize the loader. Suspecting the machine was stolen, Rummel gave it to who he believed was the true owner, according to court records. Meanwhile, Schrum maintained that he was an innocent buyer.
Dickey County District Judge Daniel Narum found Rummel in contempt in November 2014 and fined him $500 for failing to turn over the loader to the court. The loader, which may be in Mexico, has not been found.
Rummel had faced criminal charges of misapplication of entrusted property and public servant refusing to perform duty, both misdemeanors. But a Dickey County prosecutor dismissed those counts in March.
Back then, Schrum's attorney, Mark Friese, said a lawsuit could be avoided if the state reimbursed Schrum roughly $54,000 for the price of the loader and the cost of repairs.
Seeking reimbursement, Schrum filed a claim with the North Dakota Office of Management and Budget, but it was rejected, said Tag Anderson, director of the Risk Management Division.
Along with Rummel, Schrum's also lawsuit names Knight Trucking of Aberdeen, S.D., Pyramid Transportation of Racine, Minn., and Pyramid employee Brad Whelan as defendants. The two companies and Whelan were involved in transporting the payloader after it was seized, according to the suit.
Messages left for Whelan and a Pyramid representative were not returned Monday, Aug. 29. BCI spokeswoman Liz Brocker said Rummel, who is still an agent, did not want to comment on the suit.
Dallas Ellenbecker, shop foreman at Knight Trucking, said his employer, which hauled the payloader from Schrum's business, simply did as the BCI told it to.
"We didn't do anything wrong," he said. "We followed orders like we were supposed to."
Ellenbecker said Rummel instructed Knight Trucking to release the payloader to Pyramid Transportation. "From there, I have no idea what happened to it," he said.