ACLU sues Worthington Police over 2016 beatdown of seatbelted driver

Anthony Promvongsa had no time to react or comply before a Worthington police officer started trying to pull him out of his car, the lawsuit alleges.

Anthony Promvongsa had no time to react or comply before a Worthington police officer started trying to pull him out of his car, the lawsuit alleges. ACLU

The American Civil Liberties Union has filed suit against the Worthington Police Department for the beating of Anthony Promvongsa, a 23-year-old Laotian-American man, during a traffic stop last summer.

Dash cam video that the ACLU obtained and released in June shows Worthington Police Officer Joe Joswiak marching up to the driver’s side of Promvongsa’s car with his gun drawn, shouting, “Get the fuck out of the car, motherfucker. Show me your hands.”

Joswiak then opens the door, grabs Promvongsa by the shoulders, and tries to pull him out of the car. When the seatbelt holds Promvongsa back, Joswiak throws his knee into Promvongsa repeatedly, and delivers several punches. Promvongsa can be heard crying, up until Officer Tim Gaul appears to turn off the dash cam microphone.

Joswiak, Gaul, and a third officer who arrived mid-assault, Dan Brouillet, all failed to file use-of-force reports, the lawsuit alleges.

“Neither the City of Worthington, the Worthington Police Department, or the Buffalo Ridge Drug Task Force (to which Joswiak was assigned at the time) have conducted any investigation into [Promvongsa’s] assault, despite their awareness of it and despite such after-incident investigations being best practices for police departments.”

The ACLU and the Worthington Police Department have conflicting stories of what led up to the stop. Police reports say Promvongsa was tailgating Worthington Officers Colby Palmersheim and Mark Riley as they rode together in an unmarked squad car when he swerved dangerously close to them.

They claim Promvongsa eventually pulled alongside the squad, rolled down his window, and threatened the officers to “stay there as he was going to go get his boys and come back.” Police said they knew from prior contact with Promvongsa that he didn’t have a valid driver’s license.

Promvongsa claims he was on his way to an orientation to get his GED when he attempted to pass a slowly moving car. The car sped up significantly to prevent him from passing, then stopped in the road, he recalls. Both officers exited – one with his gun drawn. Promvongsa says he got scared, pulled into a driveway, and turned around because the officers wouldn’t explain why they were blocking his way.

Afterward, Joswiak and Gaul were called to pursue Promvongsa. Promvongsa pulled over, and the rest is caught on video. 

The lawsuit asserts that in any case, Promvongsa didn’t pose a threat to the officers, and Joswiak had no reason to beat him in the course of arresting him.

Promvongsa plead guilty to two counts of fifth degree assault (down from second degree assault with a deadly weapon, his car) and driving without a license as a result of the 2016 incident. He was again convicted of driving with a suspended license in June.