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St. Paul Police Video Sheds New Light On Controversial Arrest

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(credit: CBS) Reg Chapman
Reg Chapman joined WCCO-TV in May of 2009. He came to WCCO fr...
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – We’re seeing more video from a controversial St. Paul arrest and learning about how the officers involved were disciplined.

Last August, a YouTube video showed a St. Paul police officer kicking 31-year-old Eric Hightower as he lay on the ground. The video went viral. Now, a new video shows what happened when Hightower was placed in the backseat of a police cruiser. [NOTE: Linked video contains explicit language and violence.]

The new video, released by St. Paul police, shows Hightower being pulled by his hair and pepper sprayed by an officer in the back seat of the squad car. [You watch this in the video above.]

The St. Paul Police Federation, the union that represents St. Paul Police, says the video should not have been released. Any member of the public who sees this video without knowing the circumstances surrounding the arrest, the federation says, could easily draw false conclusions.

But there are others who say the video speaks for itself and that the officers involved should be dealt with.

Prosecutors who reviewed the case last year declined to file charges against the two officers involved: Jesse Zilge, who kicked Hightower, and Matthew Gorans, who came to his aid when Hightower resisted being placed in the police car.

But video of what happened in the back seat of the police cruiser has sparked a new call for discipline for the officers involved.

Sources inside the department say Chief Thomas Smith recently decided to fire Gorans and suspend Zilge for 30 days.

The officers are fighting the discipline through the union grievance process; and they are still listed as St. Paul police officers.

St. Paul Police Federation attorney Chirstopher Wachtler says releasing this video violates state law.

In a statement, he said: “Our members were dealing with a known dangerous individual who refused to follow directives at a time when very dangerous conditions posed a threat to officer safety.”

He added that the officers involved acted within policy and pursuant to their training.

The president of St. Paul’s NAACP, Jeff Martin, hold a different view. He said the officers should lose their jobs and thinks they went too far and should be held accountable for their actions.

The FBI investigated the incident for possible civil rights violations. Their findings have been turned over to the US Attorney for possible charges.

Hightower is currently in prison for violating probation on an unrelated assault charge.

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