Duluth cop involved in alleged assault was on 'last chance' (with video)
A felony assault charge against a man who struck a police officer at the Duluth Detoxification Center last week was dismissed Friday after the St. Louis County Attorney's Office watched a video of the officer repeatedly striking the man who had l...
A felony assault charge against a man who struck a police officer at the Duluth Detoxification Center last week was dismissed Friday after the St. Louis County Attorney's Office watched a video of the officer repeatedly striking the man who had lashed out at him from a wheelchair.
Duluth police Officer Richard Jouppi, 35, a two-year member of the department, faces potential criminal charges for his role in the Sept. 21 incident.
Police placed Jouppi on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the internal investigation and have forwarded their reports and videotape of the incident to an independent prosecutor. Deputy Police Chief Mike Tusken said police are asking that fifth-degree misdemeanor assault charges be brought against Jouppi.
The charge against the man transported to the detox center, Anthony Jon Jackson, 50, of Duluth, was dismissed.
"The case was reviewed by (Assistant St. Louis County Attorney) Kristen Swanson, who originally charged the case, and other members of our staff, who reviewed the supplemental reports and video of the incident, and after further review a dismissal was filed in the interest of justice," St. Louis County Attorney Mark Rubin said. He declined to elaborate.
Duluth attorney Shawn Reed, who serves as Hermantown city prosecutor, is the independent prosecutor who will review the case against Jouppi to determine if criminal charges are warranted. Reed did not return a phone call seeking comment Friday.
If Jouppi is found guilty of a crime, it could cost him his job. Personnel records indicate that on March 12, he and the city reached a "Final and Last Chance Agreement," in which he signed a document that included the language: "Any future acts or omissions which violate public trust and/or violate (police policy) will be deemed an act of gross insubordination justifying termination."
Jouppi is being represented by Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association Legal Defense Fund attorney Fredric Bruno.
"This is not a helpless guy in a wheelchair," Bruno said of Jackson on Friday. "He had trashed his room in the public facility he was living in. 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."
Bruno said he hasn't yet seen the video of the incident. "I'm going to look at the video and wait to see what kind of charges they're going to come up with," he said.
Jouppi and another officer were dispatched to Jackson's residence at the San Marco Apartments at 10:09 p.m. on Sept. 21 to transport him to the detox center. It was reported that Jackson had been extremely intoxicated and had been in two fights that night. According to police reports, Jackson is able to walk, but he was in a wheelchair when officers arrived at his apartment.
Jouppi wrote the following about what happened at the detox center in his official police report of the incident:
"I controlled his right arm at the elbow in order to prevent Jackson from (following) through with his threat to strike a staff member. Jackson quickly swung his left hand and struck me in the face near my left eye forehead area which caused me to experience pain. I sought to take Jackson into custody and delivered two strikes to Jackson's face as it was the only target presented to me at the time and in order to keep him from delivering more strikes. I flipped the wheelchair onto its handles which brought Jackson's back down to the ground. Once on the ground we were able to turn Jackson over and place him into handcuffs."
Jouppi wrote that Jackson had a previous laceration that had been medically glued shut but reopened during the scuffle. Another officer at the scene wrote in her report that Jouppi had two small marks under his left eye where it appeared small blood vessels had broken.
The officer included in her report that when Jackson was transported to the St. Louis County Jail, he told her numerous times that he wished his hands were free so that he could punch her. He also said that Jouppi "got what he deserved," the officer wrote in her report.
Jouppi, a Duluth native, worked for the Omaha (Neb.) Police Department from November 2001 to February 2008, and from March 2008 to January 2010 for the St. Paul Police Department. He joined the Duluth force in January 2010.
Jouppi was one of four Omaha police officers honored for bravery and lifesaving in 2005 for risking their lives to rescue a family from a burning home. He has not received any honors or awards while a Duluth officer.
Personnel records indicate that five complaints have been filed against Jouppi, but only one was sustained. In the case that he was disciplined for, the city found that Jouppi violated public trust by providing confidential information about a case to a suspect, violated an order by discussing a case without being assigned to it, and was insubordinate. The "Final and Last Chance Agreement" indicated that Jouppi eventually provided a complete and accurate statement after repetitive urging by investigators.
In that case, personnel records indicate that Jouppi was conflicted by personal and professional interests. He provided information to someone he knew, a suspect in a case, about evidence that police would be looking for and what evidence was needed for a conviction.
The name of the person Jouppi was trying to help was redacted from the reports. Jouppi told an investigator that he had never been involved in a situation in which he had "his two worlds collide," referring to his personal and private lives.
As a result of that incident, Jouppi served a 30-day suspension without pay and was ordered to attend a class on ethics in policing.