Minneapolis police on Friday released surveillance video of a December 2016 incident in which a handcuffed man was punched, leading to the firing of two officers who have since been rehired.
The two officers, Peter Brazeau and Alexander Brown, were later fired for the incident, but have since won their jobs back through arbitration, officials say. The 33-minute video, which was shot by a surveillance camera from a nearby building, was released Friday after a public records request by the Star Tribune.
In the footage, the Native American man, who is dressed in red pants and a dark-colored jacket, is seen staggering down the sidewalk near where Nicollet Mall meets S. 4th Street, while apparently intoxicated. After being approached by the officers, he is seen lying down on his stomach, as ordered.
But after being handcuffed, the man kicks Brazeau in the chest and dislodges his body camera. Brazeau then punches the man three or four times in the head, while his partner throws one punch, according to the video and the arbitrator's report. After a few moments, the beating stops and Brazeau radioed for paramedics to come to the scene.
The man is later diagnosed with a broken nose and a possible traumatic brain injury, although the arbitrator wrote that it was unclear whether the injuries were suffered during the encounter with officers. The charges against him were later dropped, court records show.
The incident came to the attention of department officials during a standard use-of-force review and an internal investigation was launched. The case was eventually forwarded to the St. Paul City Attorney's Office, which declined to bring charges against the officers because, as a prosecutor wrote, it would've have been difficult to "prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the officers' use of force was excessive."
Earlier this year, a senior department official recommended that the officers be fired, a decision he wrote was based in part on Brazeau's insistence that he wouldn't have changed anything about how he handled the incident. The next day, Police Chief Medaria Arradondo fired Brazeau, writing that the officer had "intentionally inflicted unreasonable physical force on a vulnerable member of our community causing injury and yet you felt justified in your conduct."
Brazeau, who was honorably discharged from the Marines after two deployments in Iraq, requested a veteran's preference hearing to try to overturn the decision.
In reversing the termination, an arbitrator pointed to Brazeau's strong service record, which included the Life Saving Award and Officer of the Month Award, served as "serve as mitigating factors which make the imposition of the discharge penalty inappropriate." He reduced the firing to a two-week suspension. The circumstances by which Brown got his job back weren't explained in the arbitrator's report.
Police spokesman John Elder on Friday confirmed that both officers are in the process of returning to work.
"They're working on onboarding back on," Elder said. "They'll be going through remedial training."
A statement released later said that after reviewing the incident, officials had "observed behavior contrary to the mission, values and goals of the Minneapolis Police Department."
"We initiated this investigation and Chief Arradondo, after reviewing this case, made the personnel decision to terminate both employees," the statement read. "An arbitrator made a direct order on return to work and fulfilling the disciplinary decision."