by Rachel Kytonen
A man allegedly driving with a green torch laying in his lap is facing drug possession charges after being pulled over during the late evening of Jan. 15.
Todd Paul Pedersen, 45, of Cambridge, was charged on Jan. 18 before Judge Amy Brosnahan in Isanti County District Court in Cambridge with gross misdemeanor fifth-degree drug possession and misdemeanor possession of hypodermic needles. His bail was set at $6,000 without conditions or $2,000 with conditions. His next court appearance was Jan. 26.
The incident occurred around 11:30 p.m. after Pedersen was pulled over by law enforcement in the area of 285th Avenue Northeast in North Branch Township.
According to the criminal complaint:
Isanti County Deputy Jonathan Vander Vegt was traveling southbound on Tucker Street when he observed a Ford pickup in front of him. The vehicle caught Vander Vegt’s attention because the upper brake light was not functioning.
Vander Vegt observed the vehicle cross County Road 5 and continue southbound. At this point, Tucker Street turns into a gravel road, which is mostly ice covered. Vander Vegt noted the vehicle appeared to be traveling at a high rate of speed and pulling away from his squad car. Vander Vegt caught up to the vehicle and radar indicated the vehicle was traveling at speeds up to 66 mph on the icy gravel road. The vehicle then turned eastbound on 285th Avenue Northeast.
Vander Vegt activated his emergency lights to stop the vehicle. As Vander Vegt approached, he observed Pedersen’s hands were shaking and a green torch was laying between his legs. This particular style of torch is commonly used for smoking a controlled substance, and Vander Vegt noted he commonly sees these when making methamphetamine-related arrests.
While speaking with Pedersen, Vander Vegt observed his eyes were glassy and watery, which is also an indicator of drug use. When asked where he was going, Pedersen advised he was going to North Branch. This was confusing, since he crossed County Road 5, which would have been the most direct route to North Branch. Pedersen indicated he was going to see a friend there.
Vander Vegt was aware that Pedersen had prior drug-related charges. Vander Vegt had Pedersen step behind the vehicle, where he advised him of his concerns that he was traveling at a high rate of speed for the icy conditions, and that his eyes were glassy and watery. Pedersen explained this was most likely from the lights. Vander Vegt also explained the concern regarding the torch laying on his lap.
At this point, based off of training and experience and all of the indicators that Vander Vegt had seen during the course of the stop and prior to the stop, he asked Pedersen for consent to search the motor vehicle, which was denied. Then Vander Vegt advised Pedersen of his intention to utilize his K-9 partner to walk around the exterior of the motor vehicle to see if he would alert to the odor of a controlled substance.
At this point, Isanti County Deputy Alex Schlangen was on scene and stood by with Pedersen while K-9 Kojac (currently certified in narcotics and patrol) was retrieved from the squad car.
Kojac, while at the front of the vehicle, was given the command to seek an odor of a controlled substance. At the driver’s door, Kojac indicated there was the presence of an odor of a controlled substance.
Vander Vegt then began to search the motor vehicle based upon Kojac’s alert. There was a zippered bag in the back seat directly behind the driver. Inside of this bag were two prescription bottles with Pedersen’s name on them. He later requested these bottles be brought to the Isanti County Jail with him.
Also inside the bag was a meth pipe and bong apparatus, both of which were photographed and field-tested positive for methamphetamine. These items were collected as evidence and later sent to the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension for processing. Also inside the bag was a small bag full of hypodermic needles, which were photographed.