Not-so-routine traffic stop: Minnesota state trooper gifts doctor with masks

Minnesota state trooper and Bemidji High School graduate Brian Schwartz recently made headlines for donating N95 medical masks to a cardiologist during a traffic stop. (Minnesota State Patrol file photo)

ST. PAUL — A year after he helped save a drowning woman’s life in his job as a Minnesota state trooper, Brian Schwartz has made headlines again.

This time it was for an act of kindness during the coronavirus pandemic.

On March 21, Schwartz stopped a motorist for speeding along Interstate 35. The driver was Dr. Sarosh Ashraf Janjua, a Boston native and cardiologist who was traveling from Duluth to Minneapolis. The doctor from Buffalo, N.Y., works as a substitute with Essentia Health in Duluth, and was planning to take a weekend break in the Twin Cities.

Instead of issuing a speeding ticket, Schwartz told her she should know better and sent her on her way with only a warning, according to a Star Tribune story that ran Monday, March 30.

But the trooper went one step further. He handed Janjua five N95 medical masks that he had been given for his own protection.


“Trooper Schwartz said he noticed what appeared to be ... used N95 masks in (her) purse that he assumed she was reusing,” the patrol’s chief spokesman, Lt. Gordon Shank, told the Star Tribune. “Trooper Schwartz said he heard there was a shortage of personal protective equipment and thought (the doctor) could use the extra masks.”

Janjua wrote about the incident on her Facebook page:

“I burst into tears. I think he teared up a little as well before wishing me well and walking away. This complete stranger, who owed me nothing and is more on the front lines than I am, shared his precious masks with me, without my even asking. The veil of civilization may be thin, but not all that lies behind it is savage. We are going to be OK.”

In March of 2019, Schwartz was the first officer on the scene to help free a Centerville woman from her submerged pickup truck along I-35 near Wyoming, Minn. The truck had hydroplaned, flipped over a barrier and landed in 2 feet of water.

Schwartz and another trooper used CPR to revive the woman.

Law enforcement runs in Schwartz’s family. Brian’s grandfather, the late Orielle Norland, was a longtime state trooper. His uncle, Bob Norland, is a retired state trooper. Bob’s son, Brad, is currently a state trooper.

After graduating from Bemidji High School in 2003, Brian earned a criminal justice degree from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. He worked as a parking enforcement officer for the city of Bemidji, then as a sheriff’s deputy in Mahnomen County before becoming a state trooper.

Dennis Doeden, former publisher of the Bemidji Pioneer, is a feature reporter. He is a graduate of Metropolitan State University with a degree in Communications Management.
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