Shocking dashcam footage released today by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Minnesota shows a police officer brutally attacking a Laotian American man during a traffic stop last summer in Worthington, Minnesota. The ACLU says that the assault was both unconstitutional and excessively violent, and that “[p]eople should not fear that they could be attacked by the police for no reason or while being detained for investigative purposes.”
In the dashcam video (after the jump) which was captured by a second officer at the scene, Anthony Promvongsa (who was 21 at the time of the incident) is seen in the driver’s seat of his parked vehicle when Buffalo Ridge Drug Task Force Agent Joe Joswiak (who was off-duty at the time of the incident) approaches the car door with his gun drawn. Joswiak is heard profanely ordering Promvongsa to exit the vehicle. Immediately upon reaching the car door, Joswiak flings it open and begins forcibly pulling Promvongsa from the vehicle. Joswiak appears to knee and punch Promvongsa several times as he forces him to the pavement and handcuffs him. Midway through the video, another uniformed officer — Sgt. Tim Gaul — is also seen inexplicably turning off the audio of the recording dashcam, leaving no record of the verbal exchange between the police and Promvongsa for the remainder of the arrest.
Now, Promvongsa is facing several criminal charges stemming from the traffic stop while Joswiak does not appear to have any sanction for his obvious use of excessive force. The incident took place on July 28, 2016 — just three weeks after Philando Castile was shot and killed in St. Anthony, Minnesota last year by a police officer during a routine traffic stop.
Worthington police officers responded to the ACLU’s release of the video today with a statement saying that the video captured only a moment in the traffic stop, and didn’t include the context that led to Joswiak’s use of force. Police claim that Promvongsa was driving aggressively behind an off-duty police officer and gesturing rudely with his hands, which prompted the officer to call for backup, leading Joswiak to go to Promvongsa’s last known position. That’s when Joswiak and other police approached Promvongsa’s vehicle to assault and arrest him.
Promvongsa protests the arrest and the assault, saying that he was non-violent throughout the encounter with Worthington police. Indeed, dashcam footage does not show Promvongsa resisting his arrest in any way. Said Promvongsa via the ACLU:
“I did not even have the opportunity to take off my seat belt before I was literally blindsided with this unnecessary attack. I immediately pulled over for the Worthington squad car, and before I know what was happening, I was beat and ripped from my vehicle.”
Promvongsa now faces numerous charges including assault with a dangerous weapon (his car), fleeing police in a vehicle, marijuana possession and driving after his license was revoked. Meanwhile, Joswiak does not appear to have been reprimanded or faced any other sort of consequences for last year’s attack on Promvongsa.
The ACLU is helping to represent Promvongsa and draw attention to his story. They argue that what happened to Promvongsa is part of a wider problem of racial profiling and excessive police force in Worthington, Minnesota. Says the ACLU:
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 calling upon Worthington police to place Joswiak and other officers involved in the beating under investigation, and to face criminal charges if appropriate. They are asking the community to call the Worthington Police Department at 507-295-5400 to demand that Agent Joswiak be fired from the police force.
— ACLU of Minnesota (@ACLUMN) June 22, 2017
Worthington police and the Nobles County attorney’s office have released statements to the press defending the officer’s actions with implications that Promvongsa’s criminal history — he has a record of drunken driving and driving on a revoked license — justify police officers’ use of force last year against him.
Worthington, Minnesota is about 200 miles southwest of St. Anthony, Minnesota where Philando Castile was shot and killed by police officer Jeronimo Yanez in July of last year. Yanez was acquitted of all charges last week in the death.