Prosecutors charged a central Minnesota man with a gross misdemeanor Wednesday but not a hate crime for allegedly having his teenage son dump bloody deer carcasses on the hoods of two cars owned by Somali-American men.
The Stearns County Attorney's office charged 62-year-old Daniel Dorian Knowlen of St. Cloud with contributing to the delinquency of a child. The charge carries a maximum sentence of a year in jail and a $3,000 fine.
The complaint alleges that Knowlen watched as his 14-year-old dumped the skinned carcasses from their pickup on the cars parked outside a YMCA in St. Cloud, a city of about 65,000 people about 65 miles (104 kilometers) northwest of Minneapolis, on the night of Nov. 14. Surveillance video tracked down the pair.
Knowlen initially denied being at the YMCA the previous evening, but when told there was surveillance video he acknowledged being there with his son, the complaint said.
According to the complaint, Knowlen told police it was "just being funny" but acknowledged he "probably could have" stopped his son. Knowlen said he did not know who owned the cars and was not trying to target the drivers. Knowlen also acknowledged that he and his son had permits for the deer. The boy was asked if he had any explanation for the actions but said no, according to the complaint.
One of the Somali men told authorities he feared the deer was a message that he was not wanted in the community, and noted that the deer carcass was likely placed by a hunter and that hunters carry guns. The two Somali men said they had not experienced any harassment or other altercations while they were at the YMCA. Police said there were no identifying markings revealing who owned the cars, which were both parked legally and not encroaching on any other parking spaces.
"Yeah, I would definitely think that we were targeted for who we are," Ali Abdullahi told NBC affiliate KARE-TV after the incident. "I did feel threatened."
Authorities noted that placing deer carcasses on strangers' cars parked at the YMCA — to be found by others — constitutes disorderly conduct, and that the act also was motor vehicle tampering. Those actions contributed to the delinquency of Knowlen's son, the complaint said.
Executive director Jaylani Hussein of the Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization, said Wednesday his group welcomed the gross misdemeanor charge against the father but was disappointed that a hate crime was not added to the charges.
"I just think that this was not a simple practical joke. It appears to be something where they ... were trying to send some form of intimidation," Jaylani told The Associated Press. "A carcass is not something that is taken lightly. It's a symbol of death, violence."
Messages left with the prosecutor's office were not immediately returned Wednesday night. Court records do no list an attorney for Knowlen.
Minnesota has the nation's largest Somali population at an estimated 57,000. As many as 10,000 of them settled in and around St. Cloud.