Missouri Sheriff, Deputies Charged with ‘Street Gang Activities’ for Helping Dad Try to Kidnap His Daughter

A Missouri county sheriff and two of his deputies have been arrested, charged with helping a resident of the county to kidnap his daughter from their mother during a domestic dispute.

The father. Donald “Rick” Gaston, was also arrested, along with Iron County Sheriff Jeff Burkett and Deputies Chase Bresnahan and Matt Cozad, according to a report from KSDK.

The Missouri Highway Patrol, which conducted the investigation that led to the arrests, is now helping police the county, about 95 miles south of St. Louis. All Four men have been booked into the Washington County Jail on a variety of charges.

The charging documents say the kidnapping plan was apparently hatched after an incident between Gaston, a significant property owner in the area, and the mother of his child on February 8. The documents say he was “physically aggressive” to the woman.

Then, the documents say, Burkett, Bresnahan, and Cozad worked to help Gaston kidnap his daughter on February 10 and 11. The documents accuse the law enforcement officers of making a fake request for the detention and arrest of the mother to the Washington County 911 dispatch center and inserting a fake “stop and hold” instruction on her record.

To locate the mother and daughter, the sheriff and his deputies fraudulently pinged their cellphones and gave the information to Gaston. At the time, they were in a location in Jefferson County seeking “refuge” from Gaston, the documents say.

Burkett is also accused of telling Washington County dispatchers that the mother had kidnapped the daughter, was drunk, and that the child was injured.

At one point, an affidavit says that the dispatcher could hear another male voice in the background of the call with Burkett “as if the unidentified male was telling Burkett what to say.” The court documents, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, say that Burkett identified himself as Gaston on the phone with the dispatchers.

All four of the men have been charged with participating in criminal street gang activities, conspiring to commit felonies, and stalking. Additionally, Burkett faces charges of attempted kidnapping, obtaining criminal history under false pretenses, misusing 911, and making a false report, according to KSDK.

Bresnahan has additional charges of obtaining criminal history under false pretenses and misusing 911. Cozad has been charged with misusing 911, and Gaston has been charged with attempted parental kidnapping and making a false report.

Burkett is being held on a $500,000 bond, and the other three were given $400,000 bonds.

Gabe Crocker, the attorney representing Burkett, told the Post-Dispatch that the charges were “100 percent politically motivated” and are just “another chapter in the long-term effort to remove the outsider sheriff.”

Burkett was elected sheriff in 2020. Prior to his election, he was a deputy. The attorney did not explain why the Missouri Highway Patrol would be trying to take down the sheriff of a county with less than 10,000 residents.

Missouri state law puts the county coroner, Tim Harbison, in charge of the sheriff’s office in the absence of the sheriff. In addition to the state police neighboring Washington County has agreed to help patrol Iron County’s 550- square miles.

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[Featured image: L-R, Jeffrey Burkett, Matt Cozad, Chase Bresnahan, and Donald “Rick” Gaston/Washington County Sheriff’s Office]