A Roseville man who spent three weeks in jail for his role in parking ramp burglaries is suing the city of Minneapolis.
A man who was arrested after breaking into a car in a Minneapolis parking ramp has sued the city, claiming that he was mistreated by the police in the December incident and that a video backs him up.
In the federal lawsuit, Nicholas Kastner of Roseville said he was "lying motionless" on the ground when he was "brutally attacked" by officers Sherry Appeldorn and Joseph Will.
"Kastner was fully compliant" when Appledorn "stomped on his back, kicked him at least a dozen times and shocked him at least twice with her Taser gun," said the suit filed by lawyer Frederick Goetz on Kastner's behalf.
In the video, the car in which Kastner was a passenger is seen sideswiping a police car parked to block the ramp exit. Kastner then gets out of the vehicle and lies face down. Officers approach; one starts to kick him.
Goetz said there are similarities between the Kastner video and one released last month from a separate incident in February. In the other recording, Derryl Jenkins is stopped by police for allegedly speeding. He struggles with the first officer to approach him. Eventually, he is kicked and punched by six officers while he is face down in a snowbank. Jenkins has not filed a lawsuit, but after viewing that video, Police Chief Tim Dolan changed department policy on how recorded incidents are handled. Every video now must be watched by an internal affairs investigator.
"It's not isolated conduct," Goetz said of the videos. "You have two incidents captured on videotape. How many times is it not captured?"
Citing the pending lawsuit and an open internal investigation into Appledorn and Will's conduct, Sgt. Jesse Garcia declined to comment.
Neither officer has been disciplined in the incident, which started with undercover officers on surveillance just after midnight Dec. 12, 2008, in the parking ramp at 19 4th St. S. Police sought to stop a rash of car break-ins. The officers noticed a white Chrysler Le Baron driving through the ramp for an hour, and suspected that the occupants were casing cars as possible targets.
Charges filed at the time against Kastner and the driver of the car, Brian Thomas McCarthy of St. Paul, said the two broke a car window and started taking items. When the officers went to arrest the men, they jumped into the car and drove away. McCarthy allegedly drove straight at a plainclothes officer who had to jump away and fired a shot at the car. McCarthy's vehicle then sideswiped a squad car.
In the legal response filed by Assistant City Attorney Tim Skarda, the city acknowledged that the officers used force on Kastner, but denied that it was excessive. The city argues that Kastner "failed to take reasonable action to avoid or mitigate the alleged detriment or damages." Skarda and City Attorney Susan Segal said it's very early in the process, no pretrial conference has been held, and both declined to comment further.
Goetz doesn't deny that his client deserved to be taken into custody. "But to do that, the officers have to follow the law. When they don't follow the law, they have to be held accountable," he said, adding that it is too soon to estimate an amount for damages. Goetz said Kastner suffered injuries, including bruises to his back and shoulders, but did not have any fractures.
Lawyer's sending a message
Goetz, who handles many criminal defense cases, said most police officers do the right thing. "How do you send a message to the bad apples that they have to stop? One way to do it is with significant punitive damages," he said.
Goetz also argued that in her interview with Sgt. Erick Fors after the incident, Appledorn wrongly claimed that Kastner "failed to get on the ground" even though she was yelling at him to do so. "I grabbed him and threw him down on the ground face first," she said. Appledorn said she then placed her knee "on the back of his head."
Appledorn told Fors that Kastner started crawling under her squad car to escape. She said she was trying to get his right arm out from under him and he refused, so she "stood up and kicked the suspect several times."
Appledorn said she used her Taser on the small of his back twice after which they were able to handcuff him.
Appledorn started with the department in 1993 and Will in 1995.
Kastner pleaded guilty in February to two misdemeanors and served three weeks in jail for his role in this incident. McCarthy, the driver, pleaded guilty to second-degree assault and was sentenced to nearly three years in prison.
After the earlier video in the unrelated February incident, Jenkins was taken to the hospital and had stitches. Two charges against him were dropped.
Staff Writer David Chanen contributed to this report. Rochelle Olson • 612-673-1747