The American Civil Liberties Union is calling for an investigation after releasing dash cam video of a Worthington, MN police officer pulling a motorist out of a car and beating him.
According to the ACLU, the incident happened in July 28, 2016 and is one piece of evidence of what is says is as systemic problem racial profiling and police brutality in the Worthington Police Department, Nobles County Sheriff’s Office, and the Buffalo Ridge Drug Task Force.
According to the ACLU, the video shows Agent Joe Joswiak of the Buffalo Ridge Drug Task Force opened the door of Anthony Promvongsa car. Agent Joswiak then yells “Get the fuck out of the car, motherfucker!”. He punches and knees Promvongsa repeatedly before another officer assists in pulling him out of the car, putting him face down on the road and handcuffing him.
The pretext of stopping Promvongsa’s car, says the ACLU, was for tailgating. In a post about the incident the ACLU says
“It turns out the agitated motorist Anthony encountered before being assaulted by Agent Joswiak was an off-duty police officer who called Joswiak to go after Anthony for tailgating him. The officer reports regarding the incident make no mention of any suspicion that Anthony was committing a drug offense.
Accounts from police paint the incident as police responding to someone they knew and recognized from previous encounters who was driving in a dangerous manner and making motions at them with his hand out the window.
“The police have charged Anthony with various offenses, the most serious being fleeing in a motor vehicle and two counts of assault with a deadly weapon — his car,” says the ACLU
The ACLU says “Agent Joswiak claims Anthony refused his order to leave his car, but the video contradicts this assertion. Instead it shows a textbook case of excessive force.”
Police account vs dash cam video
The police account of the incident says:
Joswiak drew his duty weapon as he approached Promvongsa’s vehicle and yelled for him to get out of his vehicle. Promvongsa did not comply. Joswiak walked up the driver’s side door and opened it ordering Promvongsa to get out of his vehicle. Again, Promvongsa did not comply so Joswiak grabbed ahold of Promvongsa and told him to get out.
The video shows Promovongsa’s car stopping. An agent then approaches it with a gun drawn and yells “open up the door mother fucker! Show me your fucking hands!” Less than one second later the agent then opens the car door and at the same time holsters his gun. Without stopping, he reaches in and starts tugging on Promvongsa. “Get the fuck out of the car.” The agent then knees Promvongsa who you can hear being hit in the video. At that point the audio from the agent’s mic goes dead. The ACLU version of the video claims you can see the other officer pressing a button to mute the mic.
What is apparently the unedited dash cam video can be found here.
Police respond to ACLU video
The Buffalo Ridge Drug Task Force, Worthington Police Department, and the Nobles County Attorney’s Office responded to the ACLU video with a joint press release. In it they said the video is “one piece of evidence in a pending criminal case.” The release says “the video, viewed in a vacuum, shows only a short segment of the incident that is the basis of the criminal charges.”
“The charges in this case include two counts of assault with a dangerous weapon (a motor vehicle), one count of fleeing an officer in a motor vehicle, possession of a small amount of marijuana, and driving after revocation. Further details available to the public are included in the criminal complaint in this case, which is Nobles County Court File 53-CR-16-683.
“Because the case is now awaiting a jury trial date, the Buffalo Ridge Drug Task Force, Worthington Police Department, and the Nobles County Attorney’s office feel it is inappropriate to comment further.”
The Buffalo Ridge Drug Task Force has six full-time agents that work in Murray, Nobles, Pipestone and Rock counties. Their website says they are assigned to “enforce all existing laws pertaining to the abuse, possession or sale of controlled substances, and to assist other agencies whose similar investigations bring them into Southwest Minnesota. Through a combination of aggressive enforcement and public presentations, the BRDTF seeks to prevent and deter the use, possession and sale of controlled substances within the Task Force area. Cases are presented for charging to area County Attorneys, the MN Attorney General and the United States Attorney’s Offices. Much of the work done by the BRDTF is confidential.”
This is the complaint that was filed against Promvongsa
More from the ACLU post
The Worthington Police Department, which employs Sgt. Gaul and appointed Agent Joswiak to the Buffalo Ridge Drug Task Force, needs to immediately investigate the incident, take all appropriate personnel actions, and ensure this never happens again. The ACLU has called for an investigation into Agent Joswiak’s behavior. Agent Joswiak should be held accountable for his actions, up to and including termination and prosecution.
Based on additional complaints that we are receiving, this does not appear to be an isolated incident. Rather there’s evidence that racial profiling and police brutality are systemic problems that span the Worthington Police Department, Nobles County Sheriff’s Office, and the Buffalo Ridge Drug Task Force as Worthington becomes a much more diverse city.
The ACLU is talking with Anthony Promvongsa and his criminal counsel, and we are considering all legal options. No person in Worthington, Minnesota, should have to fear that the people who swear an oath to protect and serve the community are acting like criminals themselves. The video we have of Agent Joswiak and Sgt. Gaul seems to reveal at least two police officers who believe that they are above the law, not bound by it.