ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — A St. Paul police officer shown in an online video kicking a suspect who was lying on a sidewalk last month had been disciplined for excessive use of force in 2006 when he worked for the St. Paul Park police department, according to police records.
Jesse Zilge, 31, was placed on leave after a citizen recorded the Aug. 28 arrest of Eric Hightower. In the video that was posted on YouTube, Hightower is already on the ground and struggling to breathe after being sprayed with a chemical when Zilge kicks him sharply in the chest then, aided by another officer, drags him to his feet and slams his head into the hood of a squad car.
In the Feb. 14, 2006, incident, Zilge was on patrol when he approached three men, believing that one of them had an outstanding warrant for arrest. Zilge questioned Troy Drusch about the whereabouts of another man and about a car theft.
A police report written by an investigating sergeant indicates Zilge and Drusch exchanged heated words and that Drusch ended up on the ground.
Drusch told the investigating sergeant that Zilge pushed him into a car then threw him to the ground. Two witnesses corroborated Drusch's story. Zilge said "Drusch did bump into the vehicle and Drusch did fall to the ground," but denied that he pushed the man or tried to harm him, according to the police report.
St. Paul Park Police Chief Michael Monahan gave Zilge a written reprimand and extended his one-year probation by six months. Monahan also recommended that Zilge undergo additional training in the use of force and constitutional law.
Zilge left St. Paul Park to join the St. Paul department in 2008.
"I'm surprised (St. Paul) would invest in somebody with any history like that," Hightower's attorney, Seamus Mahoney, told the Star Tribune (http://tinyurl.com/ca4xn8x ).
Hightower, 30, was accused of threatening to kill his ex-girlfriend and has been charged with stalking, making terroristic threats and criminal damage to property.
FBI spokesman Kyle Loven says the agency will look into possible civil rights violations in the latest incident.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.