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ROBIN HUEBNER REPORTS: From SWAT to sheriff — Jesse Jahner's departure leaves a void on tactical team

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Jesse Jahner conducts his last SWAT team training Dec. 18 in Fargo before beginning his duties as Cass County sheriff in January. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor 2 / 3
Jesse Jahner oversees members of the Red River Valley SWAT Team as they train on the firing range Dec. 18 in Fargo. It was his last SWAT team training before beginning his duties as Cass County sheriff in January. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor 3 / 3

FARGO — When Cass County Sheriff-elect Jesse Jahner takes over his new duties in January, he’ll say farewell to a role he’s played for nearly his entire law enforcement career.

For 17 of his 20 years with the sheriff’s department, Jahner has also been a member of the region’s highly-trained tactical team.

As a Red River Valley SWAT officer, he’s been called to help resolve standoffs, domestic disturbances and other incidents where there may be an increased level of danger to the public and officers.

For the last six years, Jahner has been the SWAT team's assistant commander. His departure from the unit brings mixed emotions.

“A lot of my training, my experiences, my education and leading critical incidents has come from this team, so it’s going to be a hard thing to leave,” he said.

Jahner, 45, directed his last SWAT tactical training session on Dec. 8 and his final firearms training session on Dec. 18.

SWAT commander Bill Ahlfeldt, 40, has worked alongside Jahner his entire time on the team. “He’s a great operator, and he’s a great police officer. He’s a leader. He’s a person of integrity,” Ahlfeldt said.

That teamwork will continue, however. As sheriff, Jahner will oversee any critical incidents in the county, communicating on scene with Ahlfeldt and the SWAT team.

As a young sheriff’s deputy, Jahner learned of an opening on the SWAT team and knew he wanted to join. “I knew I’d get the training and experience of working through critical incidents,” he said.

The SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) team responds to a scene when certain criteria are met, including when a suspect is known to have weapons, a history of drug use, access to a surveillance system or is known to be violent to law enforcement.

During Jahner’s time on SWAT, the team was fired upon in five separate instances, with one devastating result on Feb. 10, 2016. Fargo police officers, along with SWAT, responded to a north Fargo home where a man was holed up following a domestic dispute. They faced a barrage of gunfire from the suspect, and Fargo police officer Jason Moszer was struck in the head. He died the next day.

Due to the training and tools team members use, most situations they respond to are resolved peacefully.

As sheriff, Jahner said he will continue to work to ensure that officers maintain a high level of emergency preparedness, whether it’s for an active threat or a natural disaster. He said he'll also focus on mental health, the opioid epidemic and other addiction issues, and on building community relations with the public.

When Jahner leaves the SWAT team, it will be Ahlfeldt’s job to appoint a new assistant commander. Ahlfeldt said while the culture Jahner helped build on SWAT will remain, his exit will leave a void.

“He’ll be missed,” Ahlfeldt said.

Note: This story was updated at 11 a.m. to reflect that Jason Moszer was not currently a member of the SWAT team when he was killed in 2016.