A St. Paul (Minn.) Police officer has been fired for using pepper spray in the ear of a suspect who resisted arrest after allegedly threatening an ex-girlfriend.
Officer Matthew Gorans has been fired and Officer Jesse Zilge suspended for 30 days for the Aug. 28, 2012, arrest of Eric Hightower. A bystander had recorded video of Officer Zilge kicking Hightower andposted it to YouTube the day after the arrest.
Gorans is appealing Chief Thomas Smith’s decision to fire him through the union grievance process and remains listed as an agency employee, reports the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
The agency has reluctantly released patrol car video of the later part of the arrest showing officers attempting to get Hightower into Officer Zilge’s cruiser. Hightower can be seen resisting and yelling that he has done nothing wrong.
In the video, Officer Gorans circles around to the other side of the cruiser and can be seen pulling Hightower’s hair to get him into the back of the vehicle. He attempts to turn Hightower’s face and appears to spray him in the ear. Hightower then reacts by screaming, “He sprayed me in my ear. Ahhhh! Ahhhh, sir! My ear, my eye! Please!”
Greg Meyer, a use of force expert and retired LAPD captain, told PoliceMag.com the intensity of Hightower’s struggle seen on video makes a good case for a brief TASER drive-stun to the thigh of someone whi is strenuously resisting being put into a patrol car.
“I’ve been advocating greatly reduced use of the TASER drive-stun, but this situation would be an exception,” Meyer said. “Using a TASER drive-stun for a second or two on the thigh of a seriously resisting subject refusing to climb into the back of a police car would be a legitimate drive-stun use, after the officer gives the suspect an appropriate warning and perhaps a spark display to attempt to persuade the suspect to cooperate.”
Meyer said he was more concerned with Officer Zilge’s kick, which needs more explanation.
The county attorney’s review of the case found “insufficient proof beyond a reasonable doubt” that either Zilge or Gorans “used unreasonable force during the arrest of Hightower.”