Olmsted County Attorney Explains Why Police Officers Weren't Charged

Posted at: 11/29/2012 6:55 PM
Updated at: 11/30/2012 7:23 PM
By: James Wilcox

(ABC 6 NEWS) -- Thursday the Olmsted County Attorney's office decided to not bring any charges against police officers in St. Paul who were caught on video kicking a suspect.

County Attorney Mark Ostrem says the actions of the two officers involved in the arrest of Eric Hightower, do not warrant felony assault charges.

Ostrem says, "Felony assault charges need to meet certain criteria. A person needs to be seriously injured, a dangerous weapon has to be used, or the assailant needs to have prior assault convictions. None of these criteria were met in this case."

The Ramsey County Attorney requested the case be reviewed in Rochester to avoid a conflict of interest with the St. Paul police officers. We are told an internal investigation is still underway. Both officers were put on paid leave, but are now back on the job.

The Saint Paul Police Federation released the following statement:


The decision of the Olmsted County Attorney’s Office not to bring charges against any officer in the August 28th, 2012 arrest of Eric Hightower illustrates that Saint Paul Police Officers acted in good faith and according to their training.  As Olmsted County Attorney Mark Ostrem partially described and we have stated in the past, good cops were in a dangerous situation with a known dangerous individual and dozens of potentially hostile onlookers.  The officers relied on their training to control the situation.

The video taken by the suspect’s associate does not tell the whole story of the officers’ perceptions of the entire situation – which includes their knowledge of the violent tendencies of the suspect and their interactions with the large threatening crowd, the strong possibility of a gun based on his prior threats to his ex-girlfriend, and the refusal of the suspect to obey their commands. 

Policing is a dangerous job.  Police officers protect this city knowing that from time to time their safety will be threatened.  Officers are trained how to carry out their duties without having to use force and in how to use force when necessary – training that few members of the public ever receive.  While the internal review process is not yet complete, the Saint Paul Police Federation believes the review will show that these officers acted in good faith and according to their training.