PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Two police officers in Minnesota have been disciplined for a June incident in which a Black man was kicked by an officer and bitten by a police dog, St. Paul’s police chief said Friday as he released video of the confrontation.
Police Sgt. Mike Ernster is silhouetted as a video is played before St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell addressed the media during a news conference Friday, Nov. 4, 2016 in St. Paul, Minn. Two police officers in Minnesota have been disciplined for a June incident in which a black man was kicked by an officer and bitten by a police dog, St. Paul’s police chief said Friday as he released video of the confrontation. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)
The June 24 incident on St. Paul’s east side wasn’t revealed until Friday, after what Chief Todd Axtell said was a careful investigation.
“I’m disappointed and upset by what the video shows,” Axtell said. “This simply isn’t the St. Paul way.”
Axtell said he has twice met with the man, 53-year-old Frank Baker, and apologized both times.
Baker suffered several broken ribs, collapsed lungs and serious bites to his leg, and needed several surgeries and skin grafts, according to his attorney, Robert Bennett.
The officer identified as kicking Baker, Brett Palkowitsch, was put on unpaid leave starting Thursday. Police said a complaint had been filed and an investigation of Palkowitsch was underway, but they could not provide details because of state law. The dog’s handling officer, Brian Ficcadenti, was given a 30-day suspension that began Thursday.
The fuzzy police dashcam video shows the police dog taking Baker to the ground as he yells in pain. Six officers surrounded him, some shouting and swearing and ordering the man not to move, and one officer appeared to kick him three times.
David Titus, the head of the St. Paul police union, said the video lacked context. He said officers were responding to an address well known to officers as problematic. The amount of “gunplay” in the area is very real to officers, he said.
Police said the officers were responding to a report of a large group of people fighting, including one with a gun. They stopped Baker because they thought he matched a description of that man. He was ordered out of his car and ordered to raise his hands, and when he didn’t fully comply, the police dog was released, they said.
Baker was cited for obstructing legal process, a misdemeanor. Police said Friday that they found no gun on Baker or at the scene.
The confrontation happened the day after Axtell took over as the city’s chief. He said the department has learned from the incident and increased officer training.
The news comes in a metropolitan area that has struggled with two high-profile fatal shootings of black men by police in the past year.
Jamar Clark, 24, was killed last November in Minneapolis during a struggle in which prosecutors determined police feared for their lives as Clark tried to grab an officer’s weapon. Philando Castile, 32, was shot during a July 6 traffic stop in Falcon Heights. The shooting’s gruesome aftermath was streamed live on Facebook by Castile’s girlfriend, who said Castile was shot while reaching for his ID after telling an officer he had a gun permit and was armed. Prosecutors are still reviewing that case for possible charges.
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