Police are using records from a cell phone that was reported stolen along with $4,700 in cash to investigate an alleged assault and robbery at a residence in the 200 block of Elm Street on Aug. 7.
Someone living in the neighborhood called 911 at about 3 a.m. that morning to report a disturbance. When officers arrived, they found Nicholas Priebe in an alley. He told officers he knew the people who live at the house. He also said he was there because he had received text messages from a friend he knows as “Goody” who said another person at the house needed help.
Priebe said he had a backpack with the cash inside it when he when he arrived at the house in his car and was met in the alley by a man he didn't know. Thinking that man was the friend of Goody's that needed help, Priebe followed him into the house's garage.
Another man wearing a mask confronted him as he was entering the house from the garage. That man grabbed him by the neck and threatened him before both men took the cash, his cell phone and other items, Priebe reported.
He said he was able to activate the panic alarm on his car after the men dragged him outside. The men also searched the car before they ran away, Priebe reported.
After police officers arrived, they talked to the owner of the house, according to an affidavit requesting a search warrant. The warrant was requested because the owner went back into the house while the officers were talking to Priebe and didn't come back outside. No evidence was taken from the house after the warrant was issued by District Court Judge Krista Jass and the house was searched, court records said.
Dan Davidson, commander of the Minnesota River Valley Drug Task Force, was the first detective assigned to the case. He said he was sent to the house only because he was available and found no evidence that the alleged robbery had been drug related. Davidson said Priebe provided him with a reason for having that much cash with him.
The case was later turned over to detectives with the Mankato Department of Public Safety. They requested another search warrant on Aug. 8 that would allow them to search Priebe's Verizon Wireless cell phone records from Aug. 2 through Aug. 7. Even if the phone is missing, the records could show texts that were sent and received and the telephone numbers from any calls that were made or received.
The case remains under investigation, said Det. Cmdr. Matt DuRose of the Mankato Police Department. So he couldn't comment.
There have been similar robbery reports, including one in April 2011 where three men broke into a rental house on Walnut Street. They demanded drugs and cash while using a gun to threaten about 15 people at a party in the house. Someone hiding in the attic was able to call police, who arrived and arrested the suspects. They were convicted and sent to prison or jail.
The case from another robbery report from November in North Mankato hasn't been solved. In that case a man reported he was stabbed after men broke into his residence and threatened to kill him and another man who was there. The same man had made a similar report in April 2011 and police closed that case without an arrest.
Davidson said he has also heard through informants that drug dealers in Mankato have been robbed. Because those robberies involve drugs and drug money, the robberies are never reported.
“We hear about them through the grape vine,” Davidson said. “I'm 100 percent certain it's happening. We've received enough reports in the past to know people are being targeted because they are drug dealers.”