Sgt. Rick Munoz, DRE program boss, is pretty much the biggest jerk ever
In recent years, Sgt. Munoz's career has been about anything but serving and protecting.
Law enforcement officials have a rare ability to get in trouble, again and again, and keep their jobs.
Consider a few recent examples -- St. Paul officer Jesse Zilge was filmed kicking a helpless suspect in the chest late last month, but is already back at work. This year alone, Minneapolis officer Blayne Lehner was filmed assaulting a KSTP cameraman and pepper-spraying seemingly peaceful protestors, yet he hasn't been disciplined. Finally, Minneapolis Police Sgt. David Clifford was caught on tape nearly killing a man with a sucker punch at a bar this summer, but remains on paid administrative leave while his first-degree assault case works its way through the courts.
Sgt. Rick Munoz, boss of the state patrol's disgraced Drug Recognition Program, serves as yet another example of this phenomenon. According to a new MPR investigative report, Munoz has behaved about as badly as you could possibly imagine while on duty, yet remains in charge of a program that became embroiled in scandal under his leadership.
The MPR reports provides two shocking anecdotes about Munoz, who has been cited for misconduct by the Department of Public Safety six times since 2009. Following internal reviews, each of the six citations was upheld.
The first anecdote comes from April Carrillo, 22, who admits she was speeding when she was pulled over by Munoz in August 2011. From MPR's Laura Yuen:
Carrillo was driving her boyfriend's family from Rochester to their home in Moorhead. Her boyfriend's sister was just released from the Mayo Clinic after having two hip-replacement surgeries...
Munoz, then a trooper assigned to the East Metro, stopped her on the side of the highway. After checking a temporary registration permit in her rear window, Munoz was convinced the permit was fake...
The registration document for the recently purchased car was, in fact, legitimate. But Munoz insisted that the car be towed and impounded. Carillo said Munoz ordered the family, including the member recuperating from her surgeries, to get out of the car with all of their personal belongings.
"He didn't seem like he cared what we were going through, or what my sister-in-law was going through. Pretty much, he wanted the car towed, and that's it," Carillo said. "No matter how much I was crying, or how much we were begging him to listen to us, he just didn't care."
The family did not have a wheelchair. Carrillo's boyfriend had to carry his sister out of the car. They camped out at a gas station restaurant for several hours, stranded in a town where they knew no one, and watched a tow truck haul the car away. The owner of the restaurant eventually drove the family to a hotel eight miles away in Cannon Falls so they could wait for their ride that was coming from Moorhead.
On top of it all, Carrillo recalls Munoz shaming her for crying.
"He goes, 'Why are you crying? You seem like you have something to hide. You must be crying for a reason," Carrillo said.
An internal affairs investigation confirmed Carrillo's account of the incident.
The second anecdote comes from Jeremy Bell, who ran out of gas along Interstate 494 in May 2009 and had the misfortune of encountering Munoz while he was stalled on the side of the road.
Bell, a medical device salesman, said he had already pulled onto the shoulder and contacted the Highway Helpers to bring him some gas when Munoz rolled up behind him.
Bell said when he explained to Munoz what happened, the trooper stared at him.
"And just asked me if I knew if I knew how to put gas in my car," Bell said. "I'm in a suit and tie, traveling home from work. I have no criminal record. There's no reason to think I'm here to cause any problems or that I don't know how to put gas in my car."
Bell said Munoz wanted to push the stalled vehicle with his squad car across a bridge to a place where the shoulder was wider. But Bell had reservations about damaging his brand new company car. The internal affairs investigation confirms that after about 20 seconds, Munoz told Bell to get out of the car because he was going to jail.
"I said, 'Arrest me for what? That's ridiculous.' And then he said, 'If you don't get out of the car, I'm going to come into the car and get you, and bring you out of the car.' That's when I knew there was something seriously wrong happening here," Bell said.
Bell was cited for obstructing the legal process and actually spent about 12 hours in jail, but the charge was eventually dropped. In fact, Bell ended up receiving a $7,500 settlement for his mistreatment, and Munoz was given an official reprimand.
Yet even after six misconduct citations and a drug scandal under his leadership, Munoz remains in charge of the DRE program. With regard to the DRE scandal, you might recall that one state patrol officer was suspended after another came forward to report he witnessed a colleague giving Peavey Plaza protesters pot. You'll be surprised to learn that, according to MPR, the officer's suspension was "temporary," and no further disciplinary action has yet been taken (the Hennepin County Attorney's office is still considering possible criminal charges against the officers involved).
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