MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A southern Minnesota city has agreed to make a number of policing reforms and pay nearly $600,000 to a man whose arrest last year by a city officer left him with several broken bones and hospitalized for days.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) says that Worthington has agreed to pay Kelvin Rodriguez $590,000 in connection to the January 2019 arrest. The civil rights group sued the city, Police Chief Troy Appel, officer Mark Riley, and his friend, Evan Eggers, who was with him on a ride-along, for using excessive force against Rodriguez and not immediately getting him to a hospital, allegedly violating his Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights.
“This agreement holds the police accountable for not doing their job and not respecting me as a human being,” Kelvin Rodriguez said, in a statement. “It’s good for the police to know they can’t violate other people’s rights the way police did with me. I’m proud as a Latino and immigrant of my role in this case, and I want other people to know they can do the same thing I did.”
According to the lawsuit, Rodriguez, of Iowa, was arrested after he pulled over into a parking lot after he saw the officer’s squad car, fearful for how police in the city treat immigrants. He got out of the car and ran from the officer and his friend, but Rodriguez laid down on the ground almost immediately after they ran after him. When being handcuffed, Riley allegedly pressed his knee into Rodriguez’s back, breaking four ribs and causing bleeding in his liver and pancreas.
While Rodriguez told police repeatedly that he needed to go to the hospital, he wasn’t taken to one for several hours, the lawsuit says. When he finally got medical help, Rodriguez had to be airlifted to another hospital in South Dakota, where he was placed in intensive care and hospitalized for five days. His medical bills were close to $150,000.
Along with the payment to Rodriguez, the Worthington Police Department also agreed to make several policing reforms, the ACLU says. The reforms include requiring police officer aggression and resistance reports in cases, prohibiting controversial warrior-style police training, and offering police officers incentives to learn another language.
This is the second case in recent years where the ACLU has sued Worthington and its police department over what it claimed was the use of excessive force with immigrants. In 2016, Anthony Promvongsa was pulled over by a drug task force and punched and kneed while he was still in his car, wearing his seat belt. That case ended with a $60,000 settlement for Promvongsa, and the city agreeing to a number of policy changes dealing with use of force.
“It is disgraceful that the ACLU of Minnesota has had to sue Worthington twice now to stop its law enforcement officials from targeting and brutalizing immigrants and people of color,” said ACLU-MN staff attorney Ian Bratlie, in a statement. “We hope this settlement ensures that Worthington police will end their excessive use of force and instead work to protect and serve everyone.”
The city of Worthington released a statement on the settlement agreement, saying that there is no admission of liability for the city or anyone named in the lawsuit. The statement added that the settlement amount included all monetary damages, medical expenses and Rodriguez’s attorney fees.
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