The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is demanding that a Worthington, Minn. drug enforcement agent be fired after a video allegedly showed him beating up a suspect back in July 2016.
According to an ACLU blog post, an off-duty police officer called on agent Joe Joswiak of the Buffalo Ridge Drug Task Force to go after motorist Anthony Promvongsa after he allegedly tailgated and threatened the officer, according to an ACLU blog post.
The dashcam video shows Joswiak throwing open the door of Promvongsa’s SUV and yelling, “Get the f*** out of the car, m*****f*****!” before proceeding to knee and punch him while he appears to still be restrained by his seat belt.
Promvongsa, who is Laotian-American, has been charged with a number of offenses including two counts of assault with a deadly weapon – specifically his vehicle, the ACLU affirmed.
“I had no idea what was going on when I was approached and attacked by this officer,” Promvongsa said in a statement shared by the ACLU. “I did not even have the opportunity to take off my seat belt before I was literally blindsided with this unnecessary attack.”
But authorities say the video doesn’t tell the full story.
“The video, viewed in a vacuum, shows only a short segment of the incident that is the basis of the criminal charges,” the Worthington Police Department said in a joint statement with the Buffalo Ridge Drug Task Force.
A criminal complaint filed with a Minnesota district court alleged that Promvongsa approached the off-duty officer’s vehicle from behind at high speed, coming within a few feet of his rear bumper.
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The officer is then said to have parked his vehicle on a street where another off-duty officer was present; at this point, Promvongsa is accused of driving between the two officers’ vehicles at high speed before whipping his SUV around and telling the pair to stay there because he was “going to go get his boys and come back to get them.”
Promvongsa’s behaviour, and the fact that his drivers licence had been revoked, prompted the officers to call dispatch, the statement of probable cause alleges.
According to the statement, Joswiak began canvassing the area where Promvongsa was last seen, eventually finding him, recognizing him by virtue of “previous police contacts.” It’s alleged that Joswiak tried to pull Promvongsa over, but he initially resisted before eventually parking his vehicle.
At this point, Joswiak twice ordered Promvongsa to exit the vehicle before delivering “several knee strikes” to incapacitate him, the statement claims.
The ACLU isn’t moved by the police version of events, however.
The organization added that police brutality doesn’t just harm the victim, but also discourages people of colour from reporting crimes and trusting police.
The Worthington Police Department hasn’t said whether it plans to investigate Joswiak’s conduct.