MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A former St. Paul police officer has been sentenced to six years in prison for repeatedly kicking an innocent man mistaken for an armed suspect.
On Friday, the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota announced that Brett Palkowitsch will spend 72 months behind bars with three years of supervised release in connection to the June 24, 2016 incident.
That’s when Palkowitsch kicked Frank Baker — an unarmed Black man who was 52 years old at the time — in the abdomen while a police dog was mauling the man. Prosecutors say Palkowitsch’s use of force against Baker was excessive, fracturing his ribs and puncturing a lung.
Palkowitsch was convicted in November 2019 after the U.S. Grand Jury found that he, while acting under the color of law, willfully deprived Baker of the constitutional right to be free from unreasonable seizure and unreasonable force.
Following the incident, St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell released squad video in the spirit of transparency. He says the department learned from the incident, made changes and is better because of it.
“I’m releasing the video because it’s the right thing to do,” Axtell said in a press conference Friday afternoon. “Our community has a right to know what’s happening in their police department.”
The video shows St. Paul police officers responding to a call. There were reports of a large fight taking place on 7th Street, and a man involved had a gun. According to reports, the description of the man with a gun matched that of the man seen in the video being taken down by a police dog. The officer also shows video of a man kicking the dog three times before he was handcuffed and taken away.
Since the incident, Axtell says there has been increased training for officers, retooling of de-escalation skills needed in situations where K-9s are involved.
Baker’s attorney said it took 13 days in the hospital for his client to heal. Bennett says the man suffered a collapsed lung and broken ribs from the kicking, and underwent multiple surgeries for lost tissue from the dog biting him all the way to the bone.