Thursday, June 22, 2017

Innocent Minnesota Cops & Vern the Dog

Anthony Promvongsa
If you haven't seen it, you really need to watch a couple minutes of the recently-released dash cam video of Jeronimo Yanez stopping and then fatally shooting motorist Philando Castile in Minnesota.

It's simply baffling how quickly Yanez unholsters his weapon and starts firing into the car after Castile politely informs him that he has a licensed gun on him - how Yanez was acquitted is beyond me.

It's caused quite an uproar in the wake of the St. Anthony PD officer's acquittal, and there's been a renewed focus on the conduct of members of Minnesota law enforcement.

Earlier today the Minnesota chapter of the ACLU announced that it is calling for an investigation into the conduct of Buffalo Ridge Drug Task Force Agent Joe Joswiak during a routine traffic stop that took place in Minnesota in 2016.

After work I was trolling through my Twitter feed while cooking dinner and saw the story about the incident posted on the ACLU's national feed - they asked people to share it.

There's nothing excessively bloody about this 3-min. 38- sec. video clip taken from the dash-cam of a police cruiser after a man named Anthony Promvongsa was stopped for a traffic violation in the southwestern Minnesota town of Worthington.

But it's really disturbing to watch how Agent Joswiak jumps out of the car with his gun drawn and immediately starts screaming at Promvongsa.

Take a minute to click the link above and watch it.

The 32-year-old Joswiak is screaming for Promvongsa to get out of the vehicle before he even tells the driver why he's being stopped, and more troubling is how the agent reacts when he reaches the driver's side door and sees the Laotian-American man sitting behind the wheel.

Promvongsa doesn't even have time to say anything, put up his hands, remove his seatbelt or comply with Joswiak's orders before he is being violently grabbed, punched and even kneed by the irate officer - who looks totally out of control.

Agent Joe Joswiak beating Anthony Promvongsa
as Sgt. Tim Gaul comes to assist
Now I could maybe see an officer reacting that way after a lengthy chase of someone who'd just robbed a bank or shot someone, but Promvongsa is just being stopped for a traffic violation - and watch how he immediately pulls over.

Take care to notice how Sergeant Tim Gaul, the uniformed officer who approaches the passenger side of the vehicle to back Joswiak up, can be clearly seen switching off the audio from his police radio as Joswiak is cursing, punching and elbowing Promvongsa.

According to the ACLU, Gaul has had two previous civil lawsuits filed against him for excessive force, so it's actually pretty disturbing how quickly he starts tampering with evidence by shutting off the audio.

So what set Joswiak off like that? Was it because of Promvongsa's ethnicity?

Remember folks, this beating (pictured above) took place in Worthington, Minnesota on July 28, 2016.

That's just 22 days after St. Anthony PD Officer Jeronimo Yanez fired seven shots at Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, Minnesota after a routine traffic stop.

Trump's racially divisive rhetoric was at fever pitch at that time - was that a factor in the mindset and over-the-top aggressiveness in terms of how these officers reacted to minority drivers stopped for minor traffic violations?

According to Dave Orrick's article about the incident posted on, the Worthington police are claiming that Promvongsa had followed another officer in his Honda Pilot and verbally threatened the officer prior to the traffic stop.

But does that really seem likely? A small Laotian-American guy by himself using his Honda SUV to menace and then verbally threaten multiple cops in the middle of the day in a mostly-white town in southwestern Minnesota?

Regardless, Worthington PD are apparently going with that story - cranking up what had been a reckless driving charge to assault with a deadly weapon - the weapon being the Honda Pilot Promvongsa was driving. (Really)

But what about Agent Joe Joswiak?

24-year-old Jamar Clark 
According to the executive director of the Minnesota branch of the ACLU Teresa Nelson:

"Thus far Agent Joswiak has received no punishment for this abhorrent treatment of Anthony. This sends a message that the department condones the officer's behavior, which it should not."

"Received no punishment" is becoming a pretty common phrase in Minnesota for those members of law enforcement who've clearly stepped over the line of professionalism.

Remember the controversial shooting of Jamar Clark in Minneapolis, MN on November 15, 2015?

Multiple witnesses at the scene claimed that Minneapolis PD officers Mark Ringgenberg and Dustin Schwarze shot Clark in the head at point blank range while he was on the ground with his hands handcuffed behind his back.

But despite weeks of protests over the shooting, the state and federal government declined to press charges against the two officers.

At a press conference on October 21, 2016, just about three months after Anthony Promvongsa was beaten by Agent Joswiak, the chief of the Minneapolis Police Department Janee Harteau announced:

"The officers will not be charged criminally and we have concluded that there were no violations of MPD policy."

But as a number of people on social media have been up in arms about recently, no police officers in the case of a number of recent high-profile shootings of people of color, including former North Charleston PD officer Michael Slager for shooting unarmed 50-year-old veteran Walter Scott in the back on April 4, 2015, have been held legally responsible for their actions.

Vern the dog, killed by Officer Rodney Price
Yet a Glen Burnie, Maryland man named Michael Reeves was recently awarded $1.26 million by a jury.

Not because he was shot, they found that Anne Arundel County Officer Rodney Price was not justified in shooting and killing his dog Vern in 2014.

Glen Burnie isn't that far from Baltimore where a judge found that six officers were not legally responsible for Freddie Gray dying from a severely broken neck while in BPD custody in April of 2015.

But yes, as remarkable as it may seem, it was the shooting of Vern the dog that prompted the justice system in Maryland to find that a police officer was not justified in taking a life.

After the verdict, Reeve's attorney Cary J. Hansel said:

"The verdict sends a strong message to the police about community expectations. The duty to protect extends to our animal family members as well."

It is, to say the least, interesting that judges and juries around this nation so often rule that it's not legally or ethically necessary to send such a message to the police when the lives of human beings with dark skin or different nationalities are unjustifiably taken for no reason.

And on that note I'll leave you to ponder the value of human life in these United States.

Oh, by the way take one guess what the race of Rodney Price, the officer found responsible for killing Vern the dog is?

Some prefer to say All Lives Matter, indeed they do. Rest in peace Vern.

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