A southwestern Minnesota man has won a $60,000 legal settlement more than two years after a Worthington police officer dragged him out of his car at gunpoint during a traffic stop, then punched and kicked him.
The settlement this week of the federal lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of Anthony Promvongsa, 24, of Worthington, also imposes several requirements upon the police department:
• Officers must submit forms detailing use of force within five days of any encounter.
• The report and available video must be reviewed by a supervising officer who was not on the scene.
• Annual review of use-of-force reports by the chief of police.
• Discipline for any officer who fails to file or delays filing a report or is deceptive in its details.
"I feel vindicated and relieved to put this horrendous incident behind me," Promvongsa said in a statement released Wednesday by the ACLU. "While no amount of money can bring back a feeling of peace, this settlement shows what happened to me was wrong and the police are making changes to ensure it never happens again."
The defendants pointed out that the $60,000 settlement is for an amount far below the $500,000 that Promvongsa had been seeking and requires no admission of wrongdoing.
"An independent investigator found no violation of department policies, which were consistent with Minnesota law, when evaluating the use of force to arrest Promvongsa," read a statement released Wednesday by police Chief Troy Appel, one of the defendants. "Given the costs the city would have incurred proceeding with motion practice and trial, resolving this matter for $60,000 was a good risk-management decision."
Authorities said at the time that Promvongsa was stopped on suspicion of initiating a dangerous road-rage encounter, then resisting arrest.
Police squad car video from the July, 28, 2016, stop showed Joe Joswiak, a member of the Buffalo Ridge Drug Task Force and a Worthington police officer, pulling over Promvongsa's SUV and kneeing the belted-in motorist three times, then throwing punches and an elbow before putting on handcuffs.
Joswiak, his gun drawn, can be heard shouting expletives at Promvongsa as he tells him to get out of the car and "show me your hands."
Recorded from the dashcam of the second squad car arriving at the scene, the video does not show any resistance by Promvongsa.
Promvongsa was charged with several crimes in connection with his actions that day. He admitted to fifth-degree assault and driving after his license was revoked, both misdemeanors. Dismissed were a felony for fleeing police and a petty misdemeanor marijuana count.
He was sentenced in August 2017 to 90 days in jail, had 61 of those days stayed and was given credit for the remaining 29 days he had already served. His sentence also called for 30 hours of community service, a $1,000 fine and a year's probation.
Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482