WORTHINGTON - A video showing a Buffalo Ridge Drug Task Force agent using excessive force against Worthington resident Anthony Promvongsa after an off-duty police officer made a complaint was released Thursday morning by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Minnesota.
The video shows Buffalo Ridge Drug Task Force Agent Joe Joswiak and Worthington Police Department Sgt. Tim Gaul pulling over Promvongsa’s vehicle. Promvongsa is seen stopping his vehicle and Joswiak is shown stepping out of the squad car with a firearm yelling, “Get the (expletive) out of the car, (expletive).” Seconds later, Joswiak can be seen violently forcing Promvongsa out of the car, striking him several times until being subdued by the agent.
“I had no idea what was going on when I was approached and attacked by this officer,” Promvongsa said in a statement released Thursday by the ACLU. “I did not even have the opportunity to take off my seatbelt before I was literally blindsided with this unnecessary attack. I immediately pulled over for the Worthington squad car and before I knew what was happening, I was beat and ripped from my vehicle.
"I know I am not the first person to have this type of traumatic experience with law enforcement in Worthington,” Promvongsa added.
According to a police report of the incident, an off-duty officer was parked at 9:30 a.m. July 18, 2016, when he saw Promvongsa drive by the officer’s car. The officer then began driving and observed Promvongsa’s vehicle approaching at a high rate of speed.
Promvongsa kept following the off-duty officer, who proceeded to park his car where another off-duty officer was located, the report said. Promvongsa then reportedly drove between the two officers’ cars at an “unreasonably high speed” and rolled down his window, telling the officers to “stay there, as he was going to get his boys and come back to get them.”
One of the officers was aware that Promvongsa’s driving privileges were revoked and called dispatch to report the incident, the report states. Joswiak responded to the call and said Promvongsa’s vehicle swerved toward his vehicle. Joswiak turned on his squad car’s emergency lights, but Promvongsa kept going. Later during the pursuit, Gaul assisted Joswiak in his squad car.
The video shows the aftermath of what transpired after Promvongsa stopped his vehicle.
Promvongsa was arrested at the time of the incident and taken to the Prairie Justice Center. He is facing several charges, including two felony counts of second-degree assault with a dangerous weapon, a felony count of fleeing a peace officer, a petty misdemeanor of possession of a small amount of marijuana and driving after revocation. He is awaiting a date for his jury trial.
The Buffalo Ridge Drug Task Force, Worthington Police Department and the Nobles County Attorney’s Office issued a joint press release Thursday afternoon.
“The July 28, 2016 video released by ACLU is one piece of evidence in a pending criminal case,” the release begins. “Release and discussion of evidence in pending criminal cases is limited by the data practices law and criminal court procedural rules. The video, viewed in a vacuum, shows only a short segment of the incident that is the basis of the criminal charges.
“Because the case is now awaiting a jury trial date, the Buffalo Ridge Drug Task Force, Worthington Police Department and the Nobles County Attorney’s office feel it is inappropriate to comment further.”
First District U.S. Congressman Tim Walz released the following statement Thursday evening about the video: “Like many Minnesotans, I found the video released today deeply disturbing. I have had a chance to speak with local officials and leaders in the community and believe all parties are passionate in pursuing justice. I will continue closely monitoring this situation. Addressing situations like this one in our communities and in Minnesota is an absolute necessity and we are all in this together.”