Olson found unharmed in his apartment after five-hour search
Crookston Police Chief Paul Biermaier realizes that, from an outside perspective, it might seem as though law enforcement and emergency responders overreacted a bit when they received word Thursday afternoon that a Crookston man was missing and possibly suicidal.
But, Biermaier told the Times after Brian James Olson, 30, was found in his home unharmed around 7 p.m. Thursday, law enforcement – through communications with Olson's wife and friends, who were exchanging text messages with Olson throughout the ordeal – searchers were under the indication that there was a particular sense of urgency regarding Olson.
"We had some limited, third-party contact through his wife, his family and a friend who were texting with him," Biermaier explained. "Through those communications, we were able to determine that he was on the move, he was going to harm himself, and we believed it was going to happen soon."
So the search grew bigger and bigger, until it got about as high profile as a search can get, courtesy of a U.S. Border Patrol helicopter that hovered over Crookston for a couple hours while downtown was bustling with Crazy Days activities.
Biermaier said the search's growth in scope was a natural progression based on need. "We started with four guys, but with all the wooded areas, we called the fire department because they have the Ranger ATVs and it would be more manpower," he said. "Then we started realizing just how dense some of these areas were, and then we learned that (Olson) had indicated he was near water, so we put a boat in the river."
At that point, Biermaier said he called the Border Patrol, and they sent over their helicopter.
"I don't think a lot of people would have even known something was going on, but you put a helicopter up in the air for that amount of time, and everyone's going to know something's up eventually," he said.
Biermaier said that at no time during the search did law enforcement believe that Olson was a danger to anyone other than himself.
Around 5:30 p.m., the search moved in fairly rapid fashion from the river and forested areas on the southern edge of town along Old Highway 75 to Sampson's Addition. The helicopter hovered over the neighborhood for extended periods of time, firefighters searched along the Pleasant Avenue levee, and officers did a block-by-block and yard-by-yard search, while showing curious neighborhood residents a "selfie" photo of Olson that he had apparently taken earlier Thursday.
Biermaier said the search moved to Sampson's Addition after a witness reported seeing the 6-foot, 4-inch, 200-pound Olson walking along the flood wall near Oak Court. Looking back, the chief figures the report wasn't accurate.
While looking for Olson in Sampson's Addition, searchers were also trying to identify the background in his photo, which featured an alley, some garages and power lines above. With no luck in Sampson's Addition, Biermaier said officers spread out to other neighborhoods. Soon, in the alley between the 800 block of North Main and North Broadway, officers matched the background in the photo with what they were seeing, and Olson was subsequently found, unharmed, in his apartment at 822 North Main.
Biermaier said Olson was not in the apartment earlier on Thursday when it was searched.
Olson was transported for a medical check. It's possible he will face a misdemeanor charge for violating conditions of his probation, Biermaier said.