WATCH: St. Paul Police Officer Who Kicked Man in Video No Longer With The Department

November 7, 2016

A St. Paul police officer seen kicking a man three times in a video released Friday is no longer an officer for the city, the police department clarified Monday.

The department had said Friday that Brett Palkowitsch was on unpaid leave as of Thursday.

“I think the way it was characterized didn’t make it clear that Mr. Palkowitsch is no longer employed by the St. Paul Police Department as of Thursday,” department spokesman Steve Linders said Monday.

Asked whether Police Chief Todd Axtell had terminated Palkowitsch or he had resigned, Linders said he could not provide additional information under state law. An internal affairs investigation into Palkowitsch remains open, though Linders said he could not provide information about it.

If a public employee is disciplined in Minnesota, the information becomes public after a final decision is reached.

On Friday, Axtell announced he apologized to Frank Arnal Baker, 53, for the incident in which he was bitten by a K-9 and kicked three times by Palkowitsch.

Police had been responding to a report of a man with a gun last June and were told the suspect was a black male with dreadlocks. Baker fit the description but was not armed and turned out not to be the suspect.

The K-9 held Baker’s leg for 70 seconds and Palkowitsch kicked him because, he wrote in a report, he believed he was armed and he said he wasn’t complying with officers’ orders.

Baker spent two weeks in the hospital with fractured ribs and collapsed lungs and needed skin grafts for the K-9 bite injuries, according to his attorney, Bob Bennett.

After hearing Monday that Palkowitsch is no longer a St. Paul police officer, Bennett said, “I think that’s appropriate.”

He said he regarded Palkowitsch’s police report about the incident as “essentially a deflection of the truth and what’s shown in the video.”

“Frankly, a lot of officers tend to feel they’ll be believed, no matter what they claim, starting with kind of the insidious notion that any African-American male from 18 to 53, which is Frank’s age, with dreadlocks and a white T-shirt look the same,” Bennett said.

The attorney representing the police union, Chris Wachtler, has said “there was no intent to injure someone” and that Baker would not have been injured had he complied with officers’ orders.

Wachtler declined to comment Monday on Palkowitsch’s status with the police department.

Palkowitsch, who was a St. Paul officer for three years, wrote in his report that he kicked Baker because he “fully believed that Baker was armed with a firearm and I wanted this progressively evolving use of force encounter on a gun call to end as fast as possible for the safety at the scene.”

He said after the first two kicks, he loudly ordered Baker to stay on the ground and put his hands out, but the man turned over and brought his hands toward his waistband area.

“I did not know if Baker was attempting to retrieve a weapon or was just continuing to move around and not comply with commands so I delivered one more kick,” Palkowitsch wrote. Officers were then able to get him handcuffed.

But Bennett said the police reports didn’t “mention that Baker’s being dragged in circles by … the K-9. The idea that someone who’s being attacked by that very large German shepherd is able to hear, respond and obey demands is kind of crazy to me. … I don’t know if compliance was even possible with a dog on your leg like that.”

The police department on Thursday suspended the K-9 handler involved, officer Brian Ficcadenti, for a month.

Baker, who works as a promoter of music and entertainment, was returning from work and sitting his vehicle when Ficcadenti approached him, Bennett said. He had not seen the squad video of the incident before Friday and was visibly upset when he watched it, his attorney said.

The police department released information about the case Friday, the day after the internal investigation into Ficcadenti had been completed. Axtell said he wanted it released in an effort to be transparent.

Baker had not gone public with the case when it happened because he’s a private man, he said, and because “he didn’t want protests, he didn’t want the potential of any violence occurring because of him,” Bennett said, adding that Baker been overwhelmed by the attention the incident has received in the last few days.

The case occurred on East Seventh Street near Hazel Street, on Axtell’s second day as police chief. Axtell apologized to Baker when he was in the hospital and when he saw him again Friday.

Bennett hasn’t filed a lawsuit and said he would see if he could reach a settlement with the city for Baker instead. He and the city attorney’s office have not had substantive discussions about it yet, Bennett added.

St. Paul City Attorney Samuel Clark said his office, generally speaking, “welcomes the chance to talk to attorneys before they file lawsuits against the city. If that’s Mr. Bennett’s intention, we look forward to talking to him.”