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Arbitrator: St. Paul Officer Should Be Reinstated

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — A St. Paul police officer did not use excessive force and should be reinstated after he was fired following his role in a videotaped arrest, according to an arbitrator's ruling.

The YouTube video shows St. Paul police Officer Jesse Zilge kicking Eric Hightower once in the chest while trying to arrest Hightower in August 2012. Another officer, Matthews Gorans, sprayed Mace into Hightower's face and right ear to help get him into a squad car. Gorans' actions were recorded on a squad car video.

The St. Paul Police-Civilian Internal Affairs Review Commission found that Gorans intentionally sprayed pepper spray into Hightower's ear, but state arbitrator Harley Ogata disagreed Monday. He also found Gorans justified in pulling Hightower into a squad car by his hair as the man resisted officers.

Ogata ruled that Gorans should be suspended for one day for not filing a complete police report.

"The arbitration decision confirms that officers were dealing with a volatile and rapidly developing situation involving a known dangerous individual with a history of violence, and of resisting and evading arrest," Chris Wachtler, St. Paul Police Federation attorney, said in a statement Monday.

St. Paul police spokesman Howie Padilla said that although Chief Thomas Smith has not yet reviewed the decision, he "respects the process and will move forward with the ruling."

The arbitration is binding on both parties and the city cannot appeal, said City Attorney Sara Grewing.

Zilge, who received an undisclosed discipline but was not terminated, is currently scheduling his case for arbitration.

Hightower's attorney, Seamus Mahoney, said Monday he planned to file a lawsuit over the arrest.

(© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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