MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A St. Paul Police officer will not go to jail for punching a 14-year-old girl in the face while she was handcuffed.
Officer Michael Soucheray II was facing a charge of misdemeanor assault in the incident, which could have carried a sentence of 90 days in prison. He was acquitted Thursday after a trial.
Prosecutors say the incident started when police responded to a call of a disturbed teen at a local shelter, who was reportedly threatening suicide. When they arrived at the scene, they put the 14-year-old girl in handcuffs after she refused to go to the hospital and became agitated.
While putting her in the back of the squad car to take her to the hospital, she reportedly spit in Soucheray’s face. According to the criminal complaint, Soucheray responded by hitting the girl in the face with an open fist twice and grabbing her bay the face and neck area.
His attorney, Peter Wold, said the girl’s actions constituted assault, and Soucheray acted in self defense.
“In that video, you cannot see his fist strike her face,” said Wold.
He said Officer Soucheray used a police technique called “startle flinch response.” He said it’s when the officers fakes like he’s going to punch someone in the face. He said the subject instinctually flinches, freezes and turns their head.
“The jurors saw in slow motion, frame by frame the fist did not touch her face. The act did what it was intended to do and that made her flinch, made her pause, made her stop,” he said. “She had a booking photo taken 20 minutes later. Not a mark, not a scratch, not even a blemish on her face.”
Wold said the incident was a learning lesson for the girl in that she now knows she can’t manipulate a situations like the one that had occurred.
“She hasn’t had an easy time getting to be 14 (years old) and hopefully life’s going to be a lot easier in the next 14 years for her. We wish her the best,” he said.
He added that Officer Soucheray is anxious to put this stage of his life behind him and get back to his job.
“He loves being a cop. And he’s a good cop,” he said.
St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell released a statement saying:
Today the Saint Paul Police Department is releasing squad car video that shows an officer taking action that resulted in criminal charges.
As the city’s police chief, I am deeply disappointed by what the video shows. The officer’s actions do not in any way, shape or form reflect or align with our values, expectations or mission.
When this issue was first brought to my attention, I took immediate action and asked another agency to review the matter. It was not a decision I took lightly, and it was the right thing to do—in the interest of transparency, trust and holding ourselves to the highest standards.
Now that the jury has made its decision, I will once again respond as swiftly as the law allows to ensure that our internal process addresses this matter properly.
While state law prevents the department from discussing the details of the internal process at this time, I assure the people we serve that we will provide more information about this incident and any action the department takes once we are legally allowed to do so.