MINNEAPOLIS — Sgt. Dave Karsnia shielded the men he arrested in the airport bathroom from embarrassment. After he flashed a badge, he would point silently to the exit. When one man said his wife was waiting at a gate, Karsnia called for a citation book to spare the man a trip to the airport police station.
And when his bathroom stings netted a U.S. senator from Idaho, he even promised him, “I don’t call media.”
That promise — which Karsnia seems to have kept — didn’t do Sen. Larry Craig much good.
Craig’s arrest was surely the biggest of Karsnia’s career, but it was only one of more than a dozen he made in the Minneapolis airport’s restrooms this summer.
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Just 29, his record has been that of a rising young officer. He joined the Metropolitan Airports Commission’s department in 2000 as a community services officer, just out of college. Three years later, he was named its Officer of the Year, and in 2005 he was promoted to sergeant. Last year, he finished his master’s degree.
The last time Karsnia was in the media spotlight, it was because of his efforts to get speeding electric carts to slow down. That got him on “Good Morning America” earlier this year.
He’s not talking anymore. On Tuesday morning he was friendly and businesslike in returning a call to The Associated Press, but declined an interview, saying, “My chief would kill me.” The airport commission has declined to make Karsnia or the police chief available for interviews.
In his arrest reports, Karsnia typically details motioning suspects to a private spot where he could explain the arrest and their options. Often, he asked the men if they had suggestions for solving the lewd conduct problem at the airport. (One suggested lower stall dividers and more police presence.)
He chatted with one of them, a Canadian, about the upcoming Canada Day holiday. With that man and several others, Karsnia noted in his report that they were polite and cooperative.
His audiotaped interview with Craig started in a similar vein. But Karsnia grew more heated in the interview’s final minutes as Craig continued to deny that he had done anything to signal he was looking for sex.
Accusing Craig of failing to tell the truth, Karsnia told the senator, “I guess I’m just saying I’m just disappointed in you, sir. I just really am. I expect this from the guy we get out of the hood, but — I mean, people vote for you.”
Later, he added: “Embarrassing. Embarrassing. No wonder why we’re going down the tubes,” and closed the interview.
At no time during the interview did Craig admit doing anything wrong, although weeks later he pleaded guilty to a reduced misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct.
Karsnia grew up in International Falls, on the Canadian border, and worked as a butcher’s assistant at Karsnia Meats and as a produce clerk at a grocery store, according to employment records kept by the airports commission.
He got a two-year degree at a community college in International Falls and then in 1998 moved 320 miles south to get a bachelor’s degree in 2000 in law enforcement at St. Mary’s University in Winona. Last year he earned a master’s degree in criminal justice, leadership and education at Concordia University in St. Paul.
One of his law enforcement professors, Matt Vetter, learned on Thursday that Karsnia was the officer who arrested Craig.
“In some ways it doesn’t surprise me that it was him, because he didn’t let too many things get by him,” said Vetter, who is now retired. “When things were awry, or things needed to get done, you could always count on him to get things done.”
Karsnia was a defenseman on the hockey team at St. Mary’s. Coach Don Olson said Karsnia made the varsity team but didn’t get much playing time at first. He worked his way into the lineup through hard work, Olson said.
St. Mary’s Associate Professor Wesley Miller taught Karsnia in several classes, including a statistics class called Logic of Analysis. Miller said most law enforcement students didn’t like it. He said Karsnia seemed to understand the material — but didn’t want to let on to his classmates.
“He was a great, and engaged, student, but a lot of times I don’t think he thought it was cool to appear that way,” Miller said. “I would see him squirming in his seat — I would ask a question, he would answer it, but he didn’t want to be the one answering it.”
Miller said they were able to laugh about it afterward.
Chad Janezich, one of Karsnia’s hockey teammates, said they called Karsnia “Super Dave.”
How did he get that nickname?
“He liked the women. I’ll just be honest with you — he loved the ladies,” Janezich said. “He thought he could pick up all the ladies whenever we went out as a team.”
According to an item in the International Falls newspaper, Karsnia is engaged to be married in October.