Duluth Officer Now Faces Court of Public Opinion

Posted at: 11/23/2013 5:04 PM
Updated at: 11/23/2013 6:08 PM
By: Travis Dill

People in Duluth and across the region expressed strong opinions on the not guilty verdict handed down to a Duluth police officer accused of assault.

The case became very high-profile because of the video evidence, but the jury also heard days of testimony from witnesses and experts on police use of force. The evidence led to a not guilty verdict on Friday evening, but the jury is still out in the court of public opinion.

Officer Richard Jouppi faced charges of fifth-degree assault and disorderly conduct for his part in an altercation at the Duluth detox facility last September.

Jouppi was bringing intoxicated Anthony Jackson to the facility with a fellow officer when Jackson struck Jouppi in the face while seated in his wheelchair. Jouppi responded with five swings at Jackson's face and took Jackson to the ground in order to handcuff him.

The not guilty verdict means Jouppi was acting within the law, but it disappointed Duluth Police Chief Gordon Ramsay.

In a Facebook post Ramsay wrote:

“While I respect the judicial process I am very disappointed by the verdict in the Richard Jouppi case. His actions on September 21, 2012 were not consistent with department training or policy, bringing discredit to our department and detracting from the excellent work our women and men do on a daily basis. As I said previously, we will do everything we can legally to ensure he never works for our department again.“

Some following the trial agree with Ramsay.

“I think that's probably a good decision,” Mark Demarais said.

He said testimony would not have changed his opinion that Jouppi acted inappropriately.

“Excessive, extremely excessive I thought. I mean the guy was in the wheelchair obviously intoxicated. Sure he did make a pass at the guy. It looked like it was his hand, and then he just unloaded on the guy,” Demarais said.

But others tried to keep an open mind.

“I don't have an opinion on it because I don't know what happened before and I don't know what prompted this officer to act the way he did. So I really don't have an opinion. I'm not upset about the not guilty because I don't know the circumstances behind it,” Sarah Gorr said.

She said she those details and circumstances are important to know the whole story. Gorr said her view was also based on her experience getting a law enforcement degree and working at a detox facility.

“I think people should maybe take a step back and see the whole picture of things,” Gorr said.

Officer Jouppi walked out of the courthouse an innocent man, but that won't stop public scrutiny.

Jouppi's defense attorney said his ability to return to duty depends on a labor dispute with the Duluth Police Department.