One of the officers involved in the Jamar Clark shooting is accused of using excessive force in an unrelated incident. A lawsuit filed 10 days before Clark’s death alleges that Dustin Schwarze, who was working for the Richfield Police Department at the time, tased a man after another officer beat him during a traffic stop.
On Dec. 11, 2011, Nathaniel Hanson and others left a bar for a gathering at a Richfield home, according to Hanson’s lawyer. As the group approached their destination around 2:30 a.m., their car was pulled over. The lawsuit claims that Schwarze pointed his Taser at Hanson and threatened to “beat the shit out of” them if they got out of the vehicle. However, Hanson — who was riding in the back seat — became confused when another officer later told him to get out.
“He was legitimately confused about whether this was sort of like a dare — come on, get out, we’ll see what happens — or was it a different order from a different officer,” says Tim Phillips, Hanson’s attorney. “So he hesitates, and right after he hesitates one of the officers punches him in the face.”
The cop who allegedly threw the punch is identified as Nate Kinsey. A third officer, Aric Gallatin, is also named in the suit brought against the officers and the city of Richfield.
After the initial punch, Phillips claims officers pulled Hanson out of the car and proceeded to “beat the shit out of him” as promised. While Hanson was on the ground with his hands above his head, Kinsey allegedly punched Hanson another nine times, according to the complaint. Gallatin is accused of kicking and stomping on Hanson several times. Gallatin now works for the St. Paul Police Department, while Kinsey still works in Richfield, according to their attorney.
Schwarze was not one of the cops who “kicked or stomped or punched my client,” the lawyer says. Instead, Schwarze allegedly tased Hanson in “drive-stun mode” — a so-called pain compliance technique in which the Taser can deliver several prolonged shocks. According to the complaint, Schwarze also zapped a fellow officer in the leg. Phillips says Hanson maintains he was not resisting the officers.
According to Phillips, officers claim they made the stop after spotting at least one person in the car not wearing a seatbelt. However, once they pulled the car over an officer suspected the driver had been drinking. Phillips says there was a back-and-forth among the people in the car about whether the driver should participate in a field sobriety test.
“An officer got irritated about that. That’s why they came over and told ‘em basically to shut up,” he says.
Kinsey wrote in his report that another officer asked Hanson to step out of the car several times, but Hanson repeatedly refused. When his fellow officer attempted to pull Hanson from the vehicle, Hanson allegedly “braced himself using his hands and his feet against the door jamb to hold himself in the vehicle.” Kinsey punched him in the face “in order to get Hanson to remove his hands from the door frame.”
While being removed from the car, Hanson allegedly became “combative, kicking his feet around wildly,” according to Kinsey’s report.
A dashboard camera from Schwarze’s squad car shows the incident unfold. The below clip begins after the driver had apparently refused a breathalyzer and was arrested. Another passenger is outside of the car, while Hanson is sitting in the back left seat talking to officers. During the tussle, Schwarze appears to be the officer in the stocking hat crouching in front of Hanson. In his report, Schwarze noted that he tased Hanson in his “wrist and shoulder area” approximately three times. Schwarze also alleges that Hanson tried to grab the Taser out of his hand.
It’s unclear if Hanson received medical treatment after the beating, though Phillips says he sought some type of counseling.
Attorney Dan Kurtz, who represents the city and the officers, declined to discuss most of the details of the incident. However, in a written statement he claims Hanson was arrested that night for “kicking an officer in the face” and that the officers used “reasonable force.” The charges against Hanson were dropped after he went one year without committing a similar crime.
Schwarze, who joined the Minneapolis Police Department in 2014, was the target of a previous lawsuit alleging he and other officers tried to coerce a man into becoming an informant through threats and intimidation. The case was settled in 2011.
A police brutality lawsuit was filed against Mark Ringgenberg, the other officer involved in Clark’s shooting, when he worked in San Diego. However, the case was dropped after the plaintiff ran out of money for lawyer fees. Before joining the Minneapolis force, Ringgenberg worked for the Maple Grove Police Department. His former supervisor there called him a trusted and respected cop who makes “sound judgments on the street.”
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