A federal court judge on Friday sentenced a former St. Paul, Minn., police officer to six years in prison after a jury found him guilty of a civil rights violation for beating an unarmed Black man who was mistaken for a suspect nearly five years ago.
A federal jury in 2019 convicted former St. Paul officer Brett Palkowitsch of using excessive force against an unarmed civilian after he brutally kicked and severely injured Frank Amal Baker and let a police dog maul him.
In June 2016, Palkowitsch and other police officers responded to a call about a large street fight in St. Paul, where dispatchers said an “unidentified black male with dreadlocks and a white t-shirt” was seen carrying a gun.
After arriving at the scene, Palkowitsch and another officer found no evidence of a street fight but noticed a man who they said matched the suspect’s description, sitting in his car talking on a cellphone. One of the officers told Baker to get out of the car, as the police dog barked loudly at him, according to a criminal complaint.
Seconds later, the officer released the dog, which knocked Baker to the ground and started mauling his leg. While Baker was on the ground screaming in pain, Palkowitsch kicked Baker in the torso continuously, breaking seven ribs and causing his lungs to collapse, according to a Department of Justice statement.
According to court records, Palkowitsch testified he “firmly believed” the person on the ground matching the description was in fact the person who was seen with a weapon and that he had “acted under the assumption” that the person being bitten by the dog had a weapon on him.
The police found no gun at the scene and no evidence that Baker, a 52-year-old grandfather who lived in the neighborhood, had been involved in any fight, the statement said.
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SOURCE: The Washington Post, Paulina Villegas