WATCH: Brooklyn Park Police Officer Denies Using Excessive Force

Apr 25, 2013

A Brooklyn Park Police officer accused of using excessive force has denied the claims and maintains his actions were reasonable and in the line of duty.

On March 13, Amos Togbeson, Jr., 34, filed a suit in federal court seeking more than $500,000 in damages from Officer Michael Wrobel.

The suit accuses Wrobel of “violently and unconstitutionally … pile-driving Togbeson into the ground” in the Brooklyn Park jail after arresting him for driving under the influence April 8, 2012. The suit also alleges Wrobel lied in the police report when he claimed his boot slipped in Togbeson’s urine and caused the two to end up on the ground.

On April 11, Wrobel filed an official answer to the complaint. The document says he was “performing discretionary acts in the scope of his duties with a good faith belief his conduct was lawful, constitutional, proper and pursuant to probable cause.”

It also says any injuries or damages to Togbeson were caused by Togbeson’s own “careless, negligent and unlawful conduct” and that Togbeson’s fault was “greater than any fault of any other person.”

In addition, the filing claims “the reasonableness of a particular use of force must be judged from the officer’s perspective, not Plaintiff’s perspective, or based on 20/20 hindsight.”

In his court filing, Wrobel says he responded to a report that Togbeson ran a stop sign, and Wrobel observed him swerve across the center line and veer back to sideswipe the curb.

Despite claiming to have consumed only two beers, Togbeson failed all three field sobriety tests and registered a .226 blood alcohol concentration – almost three times the legal limit – in a preliminary breath test, the document says. Wrobel arrested him.

Upon arriving at the Brooklyn Park jail, the document says Togbeson managed to urinate on the wall and floor before he could be searched.

In his filing Wrobel’s says that while he was mopping up the urine, Togbeson “refused to face the wall as commanded, yelled that Officer Wrobel should kill him, ran to the jail door and tried to open it.”

At that point Wrobel restrained Togbeson in the corner, but Togbeson screamed, twisted and ignored instructions to relax, the document says. Togbeson turned toward Wrobel, making his boot to slip and causing both men to fall on the floor, the document says.

According to Wrobel’s account, he noticed Togbeson was bleeding from somewhere on his face but had difficulty evaluating the injury because Togbeson still wouldn’t cooperate. When backup arrived, Wrobel moved Togbeson to a seated position, and eventually paramedics transported him to the hospital. Togbeson had to be sedated during transport because he wouldn’t cooperate, the document says.

Wrobel’s account in his official answer to the complaint is consistent with the police reports filed.

Togbeson later pleaded guilty to a gross misdemeanor charge of driving while intoxicated. According to police records, the results of his blood test showed a blood alcohol concentration of .26.

The incident at the jail was recorded by a surveillance camera. Footage shows Togbeson disobeying Wrobel’s orders to face the wall in a corner. When Togbeson moves out of the corner, Wrobel pushes him against the wall, and Togbeson begins wailing.

Another officer, identified as L. Hanson, enters the room and appears to call for backup while Wrobel holds Togbeson against the wall. Wrobel repeatedly instructs him to “settle down,” but Togbeson continues to struggle.

Wrobel then tells Hanson to “watch out.” Wrobel and Togbeson end up on the floor, and Togbeson’s head begins to bleed.

The suit says Togbeson needed 13 stitches to close a “4.5 cm jagged laceration.”

He has permanent scarring and continues to experience dizziness and “other symptoms associated with post-concussive syndrome,” the suit claims.

Togbeson is asking for more than $6,000 in direct medical damages, at least $250,000 for pain, suffering and emotional distress and at least $250,000 in punitive damages against Wrobel.

Wrobel’s filing denies the validity of all claims for damages and specifically denies using excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment.

Wrobel was involved in a previous lawsuit alleging excessive force in a January 2010 incident.

In that incident, Wrobel was accused of kicking and beating a woman who claimed she was not resisting arrest. Wrobel and the other officer involved denied wrongdoing.

That case was settled in January 2012 ,with no admission of guilt or liability, for $52,500 paid by the League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust. Wrobel and the other officer were dismissed from the case, and the city was listed as the defendant instead.