FARGO – Korey Bueng didn’t know he was a wanted man.
Then the 26-year-old Fargo resident saw his name and mug shot published in The Forum’s “Fugitive Focus” last Monday, alerting the community that authorities sought his arrest.
Bueng said he was “appalled” to be branded a fugitive because he was unaware he faced felony and misdemeanor charges in Cass County District Court.
“How can I be a fugitive when Fargo police … never bothered to contact me about any of this nonsense?” Bueng told The Forum.
Bueng was wanted by Cass County authorities in connection with a domestic violence incident on Oct. 1 in which he’s accused of preventing his girlfriend from calling 911.
A Cass County judge issued a warrant for Bueng’s arrest Oct. 25, court records show.
Local and federal authorities said everything in Bueng’s case happened as it should have; they don’t normally notify violent or felony offenders that they’re wanted by law enforcement.
Authorities partnered in the High Plains Fugitive Task Force also said outreach efforts – such as “Fugitive Focus” – work as they’re intended to, by soliciting the public’s help to get potentially violent criminals off the streets.
“The crimes we’re dealing with are the crimes we consider to be more-violent crimes and more-dangerous individuals,” Chief Deputy U.S. Marshal Dan Orr said, “and therefore, we don’t make it a habit of picking up the phone and calling them and telling them that we’re coming.”
The High Plains Fugitive Task Force, led by the U.S. Marshals Service, is a collaboration among local law enforcement agencies with a mission to clear active warrants on violent offenders.
Since the task force was formed in November 2010, authorities have cleared 671 warrants, including 574 felony charges, Orr said.
Alerting suspected felony offenders of their active warrants increases the chance they might flee and increases the threat of danger to law enforcement officers, Orr said.
Bueng’s prior criminal history was “automatically a pretty big alert flag” in terms of the potential threat he could pose to arresting officers, Orr said.
In 2009, Bueng was convicted of possessing a firearm as a felon. He also has convictions for felony theft and marijuana possession.
Cass County Sheriff’s Capt. Mitch Burris said deputies typically notify individuals wanted for misdemeanor crimes by sending a letter in the mail.
But for violent or felony-level offenders, Cass County takes the same approach as U.S. marshals, he said.
Cass County has three deputies whose sole responsibility is to clear the backlog of active warrants, Burris said.
During an average month, that workload hovers around 4,000 warrants, he said.
Burris and Orr say law enforcement agencies rely on tips from the public and media reports to get help tracking down fugitives in the area.
“We make an effort to find people the best we can, but we also encourage people to help us,” Orr said.
Burris added, “The tips from the public add a tremendous amount of pressure to these individuals to turn themselves in. It’s a wonderful tool.”
In Bueng’s case, the tool worked, Orr said.
After seeing the article in Monday’s Forum, Bueng voluntarily turned himself in to the Cass County Courthouse and made his first appearance on Tuesday.
He believes the whole matter was “blown out of proportion.”
“I have never avoided the law or attempted to flee apprehension in my life,” he said.
The Forum’s “Fugitive Focus” publishes weekly and highlights suspected criminals and violent offenders who are wanted by the High Plains Fugitive Task Force.
The series is a collaboration between the newspaper and the U.S. Marshals Service.
Since March, authorities have arrested or cleared the warrants of more than 75 percent of the individuals featured in “Fugitive Focus.”