St. Paul Police Chief: Rep. Thompson Uses Position To 'Intimidate,' 'Bully' Police Officers During Daughter's Traffic Stop
(Editor's Note: This story was updated Tuesday, April 26, to reflect Thompson's statement.)
ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) -- DFL Rep. John Thompson misused his position as an elected official to "intimidate and bully" police officers who pulled over his daughter during a traffic stop, St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell said.
Early Sunday evening, an officer suspected a 26-year-old woman of driving while impaired in St. Paul, a police summary report said, and pulled her over. She did not cooperate, and that officer requested back up, according to the police summary of what happened. Police say she didn't comply with the officers' requests for a sobriety test.
Thompson arrived later in another car and then started "yelling" at officers and identified the drive as his daughter. He gave officers his business cards showing he's an elected official, police said.
"Thompson continued to yell and scream in an irate fashion -- and mention his elected position several times -- as the van's driver continued to ignore officers and made a video call," the report said.
On Tuesday, Thompson released a statement saying that his daughter was having a mental health episode.
"I responded as any concerned father would, arrive at a chaotic scene to help deal with my frightened daughter, who was having a verifiable mental health episode, which was triggered by the large presence of the SPPD," Thompson said.
Officers let the woman go home with her father, declining to take her into custody for failing to take the sobriety test, according to the report. Police submitted the case to the city attorney for charging consideration.
Chief Axtell condemned the incident in a Facebook post, describing the encounter as one that "turned ugly fast." He said the driver had a suspended license and the car had tabs that expired two years ago.
"It's an absolute shame -- that an elected official would attempt to intimidate and bully police officers, that he would misuse his official position, that officers doing their jobs should have to endure illegitimate claims of racism, that John Thompson is still serving in the Legislature," Axtell said.
Thompson said he "certainly would not attempt to misuse, intimidate or bully police officers with my official position" when responding to Axtell's comments.
"Additionally the law enforcement officers on scene treated me with the utmost respect and I want to highlight the exemplary job the officers did deescalating the situation," he said.
Last summer, a St. Paul Police sergeant pulled over Thompson on July 4 for not having a front license plate and he alleged racial profiling. Thompson later apologized, and he was cited for driving with a suspended license.
The Wisconsin driver's license he showed officers prompted residency questions. Later, domestic abuse allegations surfaced -- which Thompson denies -- leading to calls for resignation.
The House DFL voted to expel him from their caucus. He now serves in the legislature as an independent, but still sought, and ultimately lost, the DFL endorsement in his bid for re-election, according to Axios.
State law prohibits the release of body camera footage in this case without permission of Thompson or his daughter, Axtell said.
"I encourage them to do so," he said of releasing the video.
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