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St. Paul cop who kicked innocent man found guilty by federal jury

St. Paul officer Brett Palkowitsch was fired after repeatedly kicking an unarmed black man, but later fought that decision and won his job back.

St. Paul officer Brett Palkowitsch was fired after repeatedly kicking an unarmed black man, but later fought that decision and won his job back. YouTube

The dashcam footage of what happened to Frank Baker comes with a warning to viewers who are disturbed by violence.

In June 2016, Baker, a 52-year-old man at the time, was on the ground, screaming, while a police dog named Falco chomped on his right leg. Meanwhile, St. Paul police officer Brett Palkowitsch repeatedly kicked Baker in the chest. The audio is garbled by Baker’s cries of pain and police commands for him to “get on the fucking ground.”

Police were looking for an “armed, dangerous” suspect. For the record, Baker was unarmed, and innocent, though that didn't spare him from Palkowitch's kicks.

The attack left Baker with seven broken ribs and collapsed lungs. His beating was so severe and egregious the city of St. Paul settled a subsequent lawsuit to the tune of $2 million.

Police Chief Todd Axtell summarily fired Palkowitsch, but it wouldn’t be the final word. An arbiter with the Minnesota Bureau of Mediation Services downgraded the termination to a 30-day suspension without pay.

The arbiter, Richard Miller, explained that had Baker merely “complied” with police’s “reasonable commands… to leave his vehicle and keep both hands in the air and approach the officer,” Palkowitsch would never have beaten the tar out of him.

Palkowitsch’s luck finally took a turn for the worse in January, when he was indicted on one count of depriving Baker of his civil rights. MPR reports that prosecutor Cristopher Perras said Palkowitsch had not been acting in good faith, and called Palkowitsch a “bully," citing how he'd boasted about kicking Baker.

Fellow officers agreed that Baker hadn’t posed a threat, and Chief Axtell had testified for the prosecution, saying he'd hoped to see more "ownership and remorse" from Palkowitsch.

On Tuesday, a federal jury found Palkowitsch guilty of violating Baker's civil rights. For now, Palkowitsch will go free pending his sentencing at a later date, according to the Star Tribune.

Under federal law, a charge of "deprivation of rights" resulting in bodily harm can lead to a prison sentence of up to 10 years. Judge Wilhelmina Wright gave no indication what kind of punishment Palkowitsch should expect, but observed that "extraordinary conditions" would be required to ensure Palkowitsch's safety in prison.