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Police Investigate Arrest Of 15-Year-Old St. Paul Boy

ST. PAUL (WCCO) -- There are new accusations that Twin Cities police used excessive force.

This time it's a St. Paul officer accused of being too rough with a 15-year-old boy.

The arrest was captured on cell phone video Sunday afternoon at Ryan Park in the city's Frogtown neighborhood.

That's where members of a nearby church held their annual picnic.

In the video, you can see an officer restraining a boy who is on the ground and a small crowd around them, yelling.

St. Paul police chief Tom Smith has seen the video and a spokesperson for the department said he is taking the incident very seriously.

Smith is aware of the concern many people in the community have about the arrest.

The police department is reviewing what was captured in the cell phone video, but they also want to determine what happened before the camera started recording.

Alex Weston is longtime member of St. Paul Fellowship Church and was at Sunday's picnic.

"The boy was face down, the officer had his knees on the boy's back and was yelling at him to put his hands behind his back," Weston said.

Weston not only witnessed the arrest of the 15-year-old boy, but he pulled out his cell phone and recorded video.

"As soon as I was close, I recognized him," Weston said. "He's a member of our church. He's someone my kids have played with. A good kid."

Weston said when the 11-year-old brother of the teenager got into a fight with some other children at the picnic, someone called the police.

Several church members told Weston they heard the police officer insult the two boys' mother by calling her overweight and accusing her of being a bad parent.

They say that's when the 15-year-old boy spoke up in his mother's defense.

"They were insisting that the boy who was being arrested had done nothing, that the boy had started shouting at the officer after he insulted his mother in a very rude and profanity-laced way, and for that the officer grabbed the boy and threw him to the ground," Weston said.

St. Paul Fellowship Church issued a statement saying the events were traumatizing to those who witnessed them, and that church leaders are talking with police about how it all could have been prevented.

"I have a deep respect for anyone with a badge, but with that respect comes high expectations and they were not meeting my expectations of police conduct," Weston said.

The 15-year-old boy was cited for disorderly conduct.

His 11-year-old brother was cited for assault. He was one of the children involved in the fight with sticks that brought police to the picnic.

The boys' mother was arrested for obstructing, because she tried the grab the officer's arm as he arrested her son. She was released from jail Monday.

The officer who made the arrest is Joel Johnston and he has been with St. Paul police for 21 years. He has a long list of commendations over his career.

But his record also shows he was disciplined for violating department policy in 1995, with an oral reprimand. Then in 1996, he was disciplined for conduct unbecoming of an officer. That resulted in a one-day suspension.


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