Police in St. Paul, Minn., have launched an internal investigation into two officers after a YouTube video documenting their arrest of an area man has brought about suspicions of police brutality.
Officers Jesse Zilge and Steven Petron are currently under investigation for their treatment of 30-year-old Eric Hightower, a St. Paul resident who police arrested for terroristic threats, damage to property, and obstruction of the legal process.
It wasn't Hightower's arrest that has the two officers in hot water, however. It was the way Zilge and Petron took Hightower into custody.
On Wednesday, an Android-shot video surfaced on Angela Hulbert's YouTube channel that detailed the five minute period between police spraying Hightower with Mace and several other police officers arriving to quarantine the situation.
In between, the video shows instances of police kicking Hightower, pulling him off the ground by his hair, and slamming him onto the hood of a cop car. According to the police report Zilge filed after the arrest, officers used "hands/fists/feet, taser and chemical" to arrest Hightower and move him from the sidewalk to the squad car.
Hightower contested the detainment, shouting that he "didn't do nothing wrong," and onlookers yelled to the police that they did not need to use such force, but the situation only brought more officers. By the end of the clip, there are at least eight officers on the scene.
"He beat up a woman last night," one officer told protesters. "Calm down."
Hightower pleaded guilty to a gross misdemeanor charge of obstructing the legal process on June 22 and is set to be sentenced on Sept. 14 for a separate felony case involving third-degree assault and fifth-degree drug possession.
Police chief Thomas Smith told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that he called for an expedited investigation when the video came to his attention Wednesday morning.
"We are taking this investigation very seriously," Smith said. "I want to know what happened from start to finish in this instance, and the biggest piece, the public has a right to know as well."
St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman addressed the incident shortly after learning of the video's existence.
"The video of a St. Paul Police officer striking a suspect raises serious questions about the conduct of the officer," he said in a statement. "I spoke to Police Chief Tom Smith and he has begun a full investigation.
"I grew up in St. Paul having full confidence in the St. Paul Police Department. I have high expectations for the department and its employees. We will fully investigate and take appropriate action."
Photo via YouTube
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