Minneapolis Police Officer Bradley Schnickel appeared in Anoka County court Friday morning on charges he had sex with a 14-year-old girl and sexual contact with three other girls, ages 13 and 14, he met on Facebook, Skype and Tinychat.
Schnickel, 32, was arrested Wednesday at the Andover, Minn. home he shares with his wife and young children. The five-year MPD veteran is charged with two counts of third-degree criminal sexual conduct, one count of attempted third-degree criminal sexual conduct and three counts of engaging in electronic communication relating or describing sexual conduct with a child.
Friday afternoon, Schnickel posted $250,000 bail and was released from jail, with the condition he have no contact with girls, including his own daughters.
According to the criminal complaint, Schnickel spent the past week in a scramble to intimidate the girls into denying everything and changing their stories if contacted by police. The charges say he even confronted one girl at her bus stop.
VICTIM 1: 14 YEARS OLD
The investigation started in October 2012 when Brooklyn Center police learned a 14-year-old girl was having inappropriate Facebook chats with an adult man using the name "Brady Schmidt." Police identified Brad Schnickel as "Brady Schmidt."
According to the charges, the girl snuck out of her house one night in July and Schnickel picked her up in silver car. She told police he gave her Svedka vodka and Mountain Dew, and they started kissing and eventually had sex. After dropping her off at home, the two had more sexually-natured Facebook chats.
The girl said Schnickel identified himself as 22 years old, not 32. She also said he used the name "Brian Schmidt" on Facebook, but that Brady and Brian were the same person.
The investigation widened and multiple girls between the ages of 12 and 14 were identified as potential victims.
VICTIM 2: 13 YEARS OLD
A 13-year-old girl told police she also had online chats with Schnickel, who used the name "Brady" with her on Tinychat.com and Skype. He told the girl he was 19 and said 13 was a "hot" age.
A 13-year-old said she met "Brady" online toward the end of 2011. She told police Schnickel said he was 19 and that he told her 13 was a "hot" age.
She and Schnickel had sexually-explicit encounters on Tinychat.com and Skype, exchanging nude photos and eventually meeting in-person outside of her Coon Rapids apartment complex last fall.
Schnickel contacted the girl on Wednesday -- the day he was arrested -- and asked if she talked to Brooklyn Center police, telling her she needed to change her story.
VICTIM 3: 14 YEARS OLD
A third victim, now 14 years old, told police that Schnickel showed up at her bus stop on Feb. 1, telling her they needed to talk. Three days later, on Feb. 4, the pair met up and Schnickel told her to "deny, deny, deny everything."
Online chats corroborate Schnickel continually asking the girl for nude photos and sexual favors.
VICTIM 4: 14 YEARS OLD
A fourth victim never met with Schnickel in person until he appeared in a red car on Monday, Feb. 4, asking if she talked to police and telling her to deny all chats connected to him.
Chat records from the fourth victim show Schnickel admitting he's attracted to girls as young as 12.
Anoka County investigators have only reviewed 3,000 of roughly 9,000 pages of evidence in the case. When it's all said and done, prosecutors believe more than these four victims will be connected to Schnickel.
"Just statistically, we believe there may be more victims," Anoka County Attorney Tony Palumbo said. "This is a case where we have numerous young victims, and an adult who, we believe, took advantage of them in the worst way. We need to remember that the internet is a pathway into our homes, and that predators are looking for their next victim online."
NO LONGER A MINNEAPOLIS COP
Following his arrest, Minneapolis Police Chief Janee Harteau said Officer Schnickel had been placed on administrative leave, with an internal affairs investigation ordered. On Friday, the Minneapolis Police Department said Schnickel was no longer employed by the city.
"If the alleged criminal charges are true, it is horrific and goes against everything the Minneapolis Police Department represents, our core values and our mission," Harteau said. "This should not reflect upon the women and men of this department, who truly want to serve this community with integrity. Our community deserves better and the members of this department deserve better. We must have public trust to effectively serve our communities and I will decisively take action whenever that is jeopardized."
Schnickel was last assigned to the Fourth Precinct as a patrol officer, where coworkers call him a "great cop."