St. Paul officer placed on leave was suspended in 2010 for excessive forceby Madeleine Baran, Minnesota Public Radio,
Jon Collins, Minnesota Public Radio
ST. PAUL, Minn. — Both St. Paul police officers placed on administrative leave after the violent arrest of a man last week had been reprimanded in the past for excessive force complaints.
Officer Jesse Zilge was placed on administrative leave on Aug. 29, the same day that a YouTube video showing the arrest of St. Paul resident Eric Hightower surfaced. Officer Matthew Gorans was placed on administrative leave on Aug. 30.
Zilge worked for the city of St. Paul Park's police department before taking a job with the St. Paul Police Department. In 2006, the St. Paul Park Police Department confirmed allegations of misconduct against Zilge for "use of force" without "criteria."
According to the St. Paul Park Police Department's final report on the Feb. 14 2006 incident, Zilge admitted to a confrontation with a then 18-year-old man where he referred to him as a "marked man." Two witnesses told the police investigator that Zilge grabbed the man "by the jacket and turned and threw" him to the ground. Zilge told the investigator that he put his hands on the man's shoulders, but denied that he pushed him to the ground. No one was injured in the incident.
St. Paul Park Police Chief Michael Monahan recommended on March 23, 2006 that Zilge be given a written reprimand, that his probationary period be extended by six months and that he take additional training on police procedures and use of force.
Zilge started working for the St. Paul Police Department on March 17, 2008. Police records show Zilge received an "oral reprimand" from the St. Paul Police Department for "improper procedure" on Jan. 22, 2009.
Gorans, the other officer on adminstrative leave following the Aug. 28 incident was previously "disciplined by Chief [Thomas] Smith for Excessive Force" on Sept. 26, 2010 and suspended for three days, according to police records.
The five-minute video shot by a bystander in St. Paul last week shows an officer identified as Zilge kicking Hightower once in the chest or neck while Hightower was lying on the ground. Zilge then handcuffed Hightower, and, with the assistance of another police officer, pushed Hightower toward a police car and slammed his head against the car's hood.
St. Paul Police Department spokesperson Howie Padilla declined to identify Gorans' role in the incident, other than to say that he was among the officers who responded.
Hightower allegedly threatened to kill his ex-girlfriend, according to a criminal complaint, and was later charged with stalking, terroristic threats and property damage.
Both officers have also received commendations for their work at the St. Paul Police Department. Police records show Zilge received six commendations and Gorans received two. Both officers received a letter of recognition from Chief Smith on July 26, 2012.
Madeleine Baran is a general assignment reporter for MPR News.