A Duluth, Minnesota police officer faces assault charges from his own department after the release of surveillance video showing him hitting a drunk 50-year-old man and allegedly splitting his head open.
According to The Duluth News Tribune, Richard Jouppi has been placed on paid administrative leave while an independent prosecutor investigates a Sept. 21 altercation between Jouppi and Anthony Jon Jackson. Deputy Police Chief Mike Tusken told the Tribune the department has asked for Jouppi to be charged with fifth-degree misdemeanor assault charges.
The video, released by authorities over the weekend, takes place at a local detox unit where Jouppi and his partner took Jackson, who had allegedly been in two fights at his apartment complex earlier that night. Police said Jackson is able to walk, but was in the wheelchair when Jouppi and another officer arrived at the complex.
In the video, Jackson is asked by a staff member to remove his leather jacket. Jackson stands up and asks her, "Would you like me to throw it at you?" The woman replies, "Throw it at me, see what happens," before Jackson sits back down, removing the jacket with help from Jouppi. Jouppi can then be seen holding to Jackson's right wrist as Jackson argues with the staff member.
At 1 minute and 19 seconds into the video, Jackson grabs at Jouppi's face.
"I controlled his right arm at the elbow in order to prevent Jackson from (following) through with his threat to strike a staff member," Jouppi wrote in his incident report. "Jackson quickly swung his left hand and struck me in the face near my left eye forehead area which caused me to experience pain."
Jouppi can then be seen punching Jackson five times before throwing him to the ground. When the woman steps toward him, Jouppi tells her, "Shut up, back up, or I'll arrest you, too. You don't think people in a wheelchair can assault people? Turns out he just did."
In his report, Jouppi notes that he flipped Jackson's wheelchair over to put him on the ground, but there is at least one discrepancy -- he says he threw two punches to Jackson's face, "as it was the only target presented to me at the time."
A second, unidentified officer can be seen in the video. She makes no move to stop Jouppi as he hits Jackson, but helps put him back in the wheelchair.
The News-Tribune quotes a report from "another officer at the scene" as saying Jouppi had two small marks under his left eye, "where it appeared small blood vessels had broken."
Jouppi's attorney, Fredric Bruno, told the newspaper Sept. 28 that Jackson was "not a helpless guy in a wheelchair," while admitting he had not seen the video.
"He had trashed his room in the public facility he was living in," said Bruno, who works for the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association Legal Defense Fund. "He was taken forcibly to detox and alluded to the fact that he had a .38 pistol and a .45 pistol. He punched Officer Jouppi, disorienting him. He was a subject being subdued. He's (Jouppi) got some concerns about him. The guy (Jackson), at a minimum, should have a disorderly conduct at the facility, probably a terroristic threat against detox staff and probably a fourth-degree assault against Officer Jouppi. He's not exactly a sympathetic character as he's being portrayed."
A felony assault charge against Jackson has been dropped.
WDIO-TV reported that Jouppi, who had previously served in St. Paul, Minnesota and Omaha, Nebraska, has five complaints on his personnel record, including one sustained complaint for telling a friend he was the subject of "an open, criminal sexual misconduct investigation" and telling him what kind of evidence police collect in those types of cases.
Video of Jouppi hitting Jackson, posted on YouTube by Russia Today, can be seen below.