Texts Show McKenzie County Sheriff Making Crude Joke About Opponent, Joking About Violence Against Illegal Immigrants


Photo by Elizabeth Hackenburg McKenzie County Sheriff Gary Schwartzenberger talks to reporters Monday after the county commission held a special meeting to discuss a potential request for his removal, and a hearing for a lieutenant who has been put on unpaid administrative leave.

McKenzie County Sheriff Gary Schwartzenberger has had a tumultuous tenure in office. His county commission requested in 2016 that then-Governor Jack Dalrymple remove him from office. He surived that office, however, returning to office last year. Now he’s running for re-election and, with election day next week, some ugly texts he apparently sent to a friend have come to light.

In the texts he mocks the appearances of his opponent Matthew Johansen in a pretty crude fashion. I’ve edited these screenshots slightly to block the curse words, but I’m sure your imagination can fill in the gaps.

He also sent a meme which suggested violence as a solution to illegal immigrants crossing the border:

The texts, which have apparently been circulating in law enforcement circles, were shared with me by a source in McKenzie County who asked not to be identified.

I reached out to Schwartzenberger about the texts. His only comment was to direct me to a statement he had posted on his campaign Facebook page about them:

My source also shared this Facebook post Schwartzenberger made on his personal account which is only visible to friends:

“The County Commission’s request to have Schwartzenberger removed from office cited numerous complaints, including accusing him of bullying and retaliating against certain employees, creating a military-like work environment and being prone to fits of anger,” the Williston Herald reported last year.

In 2014 Schwartzenberger also faced misdemeanor charges for misappropriation of county funds, but those charges were dropped after Governor Doug Burgum reinstated him. Upon his reinstatement to office, all of his deputies at the time quit.

Election day in this race is June 12. I called Johansen and sent a message to him on Facebook but so far haven’t received a response.