2nd Officer On Leave Over YouTube Arrest Flap
ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — A second St. Paul Police officer has been put on paid administrative leave as the department continues to investigate potential police brutality.
The two officers are currently off duty after YouTube video surfaced showing the arrest of 30-year-old Eric Ronnell Hightower, who on Thursday was charged with aggravated stalking, making terroristic threats, and fourth-degree criminal damage to property.
Hightower was arrested after allegedly stalking and threatening his ex-girlfriend. She told officers he threatened to kill her and had, in the last few weeks, choked her and beaten her.
On Wednesday, video surfaced of Hightower’s arrest at the corner of Woodbridge and Milford streets in St. Paul. The video shows one of the arresting officers appear to kick Hightower in the throat while he’s lying down on the sidewalk. [NOTE: Linked video contains explicit language and violence.]
Later in the video, another officer arrives and the two are seen pulling the man’s hair and shoving the man face down onto the hood of the police cruiser.
The incident report from police listed Jesse Zilge as the primary reporting officer and Steven Petron as the secondary reporting officer. Officer Zilge was earlier this week placed on administrative leave while the department investigates the incident. A spokesperson for the department said Petron is currently still on duty. The second officer who was placed on leave has not been identified.
“Saint Paul Police Chief Tom Smith found that the video images raised questions about use of force and immediately ordered a thorough internal investigation into the circumstances surrounding all aspects of the arrest, from start to finish,” read a Friday release from the department announcing the second officer had been put on paid administrative leave.
Zilge has one disciplinary action in his personnel file since joining the force in 2009. He was given an oral reprimand for improper procedure. Zilge’s file also included seven commendations, including two letters of recognition from Chief Thomas Smith.
Dave Titus, president of the St. Paul Police Federation, said that Zilge is a good man with family and co-workers who think highly of him. He also said the YouTube video is “one dimensional” and that the public should wait to form an opinion until the facts come out.
Police aren’t offering comment during their internal investigation.