St. Paul to settle $237,500 excessive force lawsuit

  • Article by: NICOLE NORFLEET , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 15, 2013 - 12:04 AM

The city of St. Paul is set to reach a $237,500 settlement with a Twin Cities man who says that St. Paul police officers used excessive force and caused significant injuries that sent him to the hospital when they arrested him several years ago.

James Newbill, who has since changed his name to Ras Yirehmiel Tafari, said he had been the victim of alleged excessive force, battery and assault during a 2010 arrest. Tafari sued the two police officers along with the city originally seeking damages of more than $1 million.

The settlement agreement is expected to be approved at a City Council meeting Wednesday.

The two officers had been working in the narcotics/vice unit on Aug. 17, 2010, when they came upon a suspected drug deal in a church parking lot near the State Capitol. According to the complaint, the officers rushed Tafari “without giving any commands or instructions,” and he ran to the front of the church.

As Tafari raised his hands, one officer used a Taser gun on him, causing him to fall to the steps, the complaint said. The other officer then kicked Tafari in the face, knocking him out.

Tafari was handcuffed and taken to Regions Hospital, where he spent three days in the intensive care unit. According to the complaint, his broken jaw needed wiring for nearly three months. Oral surgery was required to repair his teeth and cuts to his mouth. Tafari needed to wear a neck brace for nearly four months because of broken vertebrae.

Tafari eventually pleaded guilty to possession of a small amount of marijuana.

In the settlement agreement, the city does not admit any wrongdoing or liability.

It is the third settlement having to do with police conduct that the city has agreed to this year.

Nicole Norfleet • 612-673-4495

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