Worthington Police Sued for Use of Excessive Force During Arrest

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Twenty-three-year-old Anthony Promvongsa, a Laotian American man, was pulled over, brutally beaten, and arrested by the Worthington Police department during a traffic stop on July 28, 2016. Officer Joe Joswiak, an officer on the Buffalo Ridge Drug Task Force, demonstrated excessive force in battering, manhandling, and repeatedly punching Promvongsa during the arrest. As a result, Promvongsa has recently filed an excessive force lawsuit with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota (ACLU-MN).

In the video obtained from the dashboard camera of the Worthington police vehicle, Officer Joswiak can be clearly seen approaching Promvongsa’s vehicle with his gun drawn. He then proceeds to pull Promvongsa out of the driver seat while still buckled into the seat. Joswiak can also be identified repeatedly striking Promvongsa and hurling abusive language at him.

The following is a video from the dashcam of the police vehicle. Video may contain graphic images.

Of the incident, Promvongsa has said:

“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 knew what was happening I was beat and ripped from my vehicle. I know I am not the first person to have this type of traumatic experience with law enforcement in Worthington.”

Incidents of excessive force and brutality being used by police officers in the United States of America is becoming an increasingly pertinent issue. Use of excessive force by law enforcement is also disproportionately aimed toward racialized people. The African-American and Latino communities of the US especially suffer from issues of over-policing and police brutality.

The lawsuit was filed in the US District Court and names the Worthington Police Department, the Buffalo Ridge Drug Task Force, the city of Worthington and the individual officers involved as the defendants. The legal director of ACLU-MN, Teresa Nelson claims that the mistreatment of Promvongsa fits a larger pattern of behaviour displayed by Worthington police. This lawsuit comes just months after Officer Jeronimo Yanez, another Minnesota officer, was acquitted of all charges in the death of Philando Castile.

While cases such as Promvongsa have become more common, US law is still not component enough to protect citizens from instances of police brutality. The US Supreme Court has previously ruled the use of deadly force to prevent grave and imminent harm, to make arrests, and to prevent escape as constitutional. These rulings were made in keeping with the perspective of a “reasonable officer on the scene.” This approach is easily used as a defense by law enforcement engaging in police brutality and adversely affects racialized communities who find themselves being targets of said treatment.

In this case, the US District Court will weigh the constitutionality of the use of deadly force against the legality of the arrest of Anthony Promvongsa. However, if past events are to be of any indication, then it is likely that the American legal system will rule against Promvongsa and choose to protect the Worthington Police department instead.

This blog post was written by a CCLA-PBSC RightsWatch student. Views expressed do not necessarily reflect the view of the CCLA or PBSC.