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ACLU of Minnesota files lawsuit on behalf of Anthony Promvongsa
St. Paul, Minn. (Nov. 15, 2017) — The American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota on Wednesday filed an excessive force lawsuit against the Worthington Police Department, the Buffalo Ridge Drug Task Force and the City of Worthington, along with a number of individual officers.
The suit was filed on the behalf of ACLU of Minnesota client, Anthony Promvongsa a local Worthington resident who was allegedly assaulted by Buffalo Ridge Drug Task Force Officer Joe Joswiak in Worthington in 2016. Also present at the scene was Sergeant Tim Gaul of the Worthington Police Department.
In July 2016, Promvongsa was pulled over by Officer Joswiak of the Buffalo Ridge Task Force and Worthington Police Sergeant Tim Gaul after being accused of tailgating two off-duty officers. Within seconds of Promvongsa’s vehicle being stopped, video shows officer Joswiak approached the vehicle with a weapon drawn and screaming at Promvongsa to “Get the f*** out of the car, mother f*****, show me your hands.” The video then shows Joswiak immediately yank open the door and violently pulling Promvongsa from the vehicle before Promvongsa can even remove his seat belt. Officer Joswiak began to knee and punch Promvongsa while Promvongsa was still in the vehicle. After a couple of seconds the audio on the police dash cam appeared to be intentionally shut off by Sergeant Gaul.
“The assault has left me feeling uncomfortable and scared.” said Promvongsa. “When Officer Joswiak approached my car with his gun out, I thought I was going to die. I’m suing the officers who did this to me because I don’t want this to happen to anyone else; the officers need to be held accountable for their actions.”
The entire incident lasted less than two minutes from when Promvongsa’s vehicle was pulled over to when he was handcuffed and under arrest in the backseat of the police vehicle. The suit alleges that Promvongsa was not given proper time to obey officer Joswiak’s orders before excessive force was used against him, nor did Promvongsa represent any threat to the officers that warranted the use of force at all, let alone the level of force the officers used.
Despite the ACLU releasing the footage from the incident earlier this year, and Promvongsa filing an official complaint against the two officers, neither officer at the scene has received any discipline stemming from the alleged assault.
“Everyone has a right to be treated with dignity and respect by law enforcement,” said Teresa Nelson, legal director of ACLU-MN. “The brutal assault against Anthony Promvongsa violated his rights. This assault, and the lack of discipline against the officers involved, is part of a pattern and practice by the Worthington Police Department and the Buffalo Ridge Drug Task Force who routinely fail to hold their officers accountable for their actions.”
In its lawsuit, the ACLU-MN asks the Court to recognize this incident as part of a pattern and practice of misbehavior by the Worthington Police Department and the Buffalo Ridge Drug Task Force. The ACLU-MN is also seeking damages for its client who suffered not only physical injuries but other harms stemming from the 2016 assault.
Attorneys for the case include Jen Cornell and Allyson Petersen of Nilan Johnson Lewis PA along with Ian Bratlie and Teresa Nelson of the ACLU-MN.