St. Paul Police Dept. seeks further review of kicking incidentby Madeleine Baran, Minnesota Public Radio
ST. PAUL, Minn. — Police have asked Minneapolis prosecutors to review allegations of police brutality against two officers seen on video arresting a suspect in August.
The five-minute video, shot by a bystander and posted to YouTube, shows St. Paul Police Officer Jesse Zilge trying to arrest 30-year-old Eric Hightower for allegedly threatening his ex-girlfriend. It shows Zilge kicking Hightower once in the chest and Officer Matthews Gorans helping push Hightower into a squad car as he sprays Mace in Hightower's face.
The video has been viewed more than 300,000 times on YouTube. Hightower has pleaded not guilty.
Last year, Olmsted County prosecutor Jim Martinson reviewed the case for possible felony charges. He declined to file charges in November after he found the officers acted as any reasonable officer would under similar circumstances.
Now, the Minneapolis city attorney will review the incident for possible misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor charges, said St. Paul police spokesperson Howie Padilla. Police asked the Minneapolis city attorney to review the case instead of the St. Paul city attorney to avoid any conflict of interest, he said.
Meanwhile, a police internal affairs investigation of the incident continues and the officers have been reassigned to desk jobs, Padilla said.
In an interview with MPR News in November, Martinson, the Olmsted County prosecutor, said he watched the video of the incident more than a dozen times and also reviewed video from seven police squad cars to determine whether the officers committed a felony.
Martinson noted that Zilge tried to arrest Hightower first by verbal commands and then by Mace and used force when those methods failed. Martinson also said Zilge was alone when he first encountered Hightower. Zilge had called dispatch to request assistance but became concerned when a crowd gathered and began yelling at him, Martinson said.
"It's easy to second-guess and sit down and slow down a video tape and look at it in slow-motion and so on and try to make a decision about what you would've done, but the officer doesn't have that luxury," Martinson said in the Nov. 30 interview.
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