Police video stirs debate

Published 9:36 am Thursday, August 30, 2012

MINNEAPOLIS — St. Paul police are conducting an internal investigation after a video surfaced Wednesday that shows an officer kicking a man while he was lying on the ground during an arrest.

The video, which was recorded by a citizen and posted to YouTube, shows a man lying on the ground, yelling at an officer and asking why he was being arrested. At one point, the man starts coughing, and the officer kicks him in what appears to be his neck or his chest.

The officer then handcuffs the man. Another officer then comes to help, and the two officers bring the man to the squad car. They appear to pull his hair and slam his face onto the hood of the car.

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“The video of a St. Paul police officer striking a suspect raises serious questions about the conduct of the officer,” Mayor Chris Coleman said in a statement. “I have high expectations for the department and its employees. We will fully investigate and take appropriate action.”

Police spokesman Howie Padilla said police learned of the video after someone sent a link to the department. Padilla said Chief Thomas Smith immediately ordered an internal investigation so he could find out what happened before, during and after the arrest.

Smith told reporters that the public has a right to answers, Padilla said.

While there are several officers on the video, only one — the officer seen kicking the man — was placed on administrative leave.

Padilla confirmed that officer was Jesse Zilge. A phone listing for a Jesse Zilge was disconnected. A message left with the police union Wednesday was not immediately returned.

The video was recorded during the Tuesday night arrest of Eric Hightower, 30, of St. Paul. Police were seeking Hightower because he was accused of threatening to kill a woman he knew, Padilla said.

Hightower was being held in the Ramsey County Jail on Wednesday on suspicion of making terroristic threats and other charges. Formal charges were expected to be filed Thursday. It was not immediately clear whether Hightower had an attorney.


The video on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?vjfZmE0aFUX4&featureg-all-u