The St. Paul police officer who was fired for kicking an innocent man and then rehired was indicted Wednesday by a federal grand jury for using excessive force in the incident.
Brett Palkowitsch, 31, was charged with one count of deprivation of rights in connection with the incident, which left Frank Baker severely injured.
“The indictment alleges that Palkowitsch used unreasonable force when he kicked arrestee [Baker] repeatedly while [Baker] was on the ground and in the grips of a police canine, resulting in bodily injury,” said a news release from the Minneapolis’ FBI office, which investigated the case.
The charge carries a maximum of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Palkowitsch was placed on paid administrative leave Wednesday pending the outcome of the case, said police spokesman Steve Linders.
Palkowitsch could not be reached for comment, and a message left with an attorney for the St. Paul Police Federation, the officers’ union, was not returned.
Baker also could not be reached for comment but one of the attorneys who represented him on the case, Andrew Noel, said: “It’s a positive step forward when federal authorities investigate cases that merit inquiry and charge law enforcement officers in cases where it’s warranted. This case fits both.”
Chief Todd Axtell fired Palkowitsch for the 2016 incident, going beyond the discipline recommended by the Police Civilian Internal Affairs Review Commission, Linders said, but by law had to rehire him after an arbitrator ruled in 2017 that he should get his job back.
“An incident like this is the last thing Chief Axtell thought he would ever confront in his first 24 hours leading the department,” Linders said. “As he said at the time, the actions taken at the time do not reflect the way St. Paul police officers strive to do their job day-in, day-out.”
The June 24, 2016, incident was captured on squad dash camera, and the city eventually reached a record $2 million settlement with Baker, whom officers had mistaken for a suspect.
The video showed Palkowitsch kicking Baker three times as K-9 Falco bites and drags him on the ground.
Six officers stand around Baker. Palkowitsch kicks him in the midsection as Baker is given orders and cursed at.
“Get him, buddy,” an officer says at one point, presumably to Falco. “Get him, buddy. Good.”
Police had responded to a report of people armed with bats, golf clubs and at least one gun. They arrived to find several people standing outside some apartment buildings, but “none of the people appeared to be alarmed, arguing, or fighting,” said a report written by officer Joe Dick.
Officer Brian Ficcadenti was the first to encounter Baker in a parked car behind a building. Ficcadenti ordered Baker out of the car. Baker obliged, but Ficcadenti wrote in his report that he eventually deployed his K-9, Falco, because Baker allegedly refused to walk toward him.
Ficcadenti was suspended for 30 days for his role in the incident. He and Falco were also removed from the K-9 unit.
Linders said he does not believe any of the other officers who were present at the time were disciplined.
Palkowitsch joined the St. Paul police academy in 2013, and worked in the department’s video management unit upon his rehiring. He then worked patrol in the Central District and, most recently, the Western District, Linders said.