A probationary Metro Transit police officer has been dismissed about two months after he allegedly injured a St. Paul teenager on Green Line rail tracks, a transit spokesman said Wednesday.
The Aug. 31 incident near the Lexington Avenue station sparked a rail-stopping protest by Black Lives Matter and drew calls for the officer’s firing.
Richard M. Wegner failed probation and is no longer a Metro Transit employee as of last Saturday, said spokesman Howie Padilla. Wegner, a former State Patrol trooper, had been a part-time transit officer since 1993 and was hired full-time in March. State civil service rules allow officers to be “summarily dismissed” during their first year, Padilla said.
The investigation into Wegner’s handling of Marcus Abrams, who was 17 at the time, is now closed, Padilla said. Details of the investigation remain under wraps, Padilla said, because there was no finding that discipline was necessary against the officers involved.
Messages were left Wednesday with Wegner seeking his reaction to the dismissal.
Abrams, who has Asperger’s syndrome, had been standing on the light-rail tracks and didn’t hear officers’ orders because he was wearing headphones, his mother said.
Police threw Abrams to the ground, splitting his lip. He was briefly knocked out by Wegner’s use of a “neck restraint” and required treatment at a hospital. He was never charged with a crime.
“Just by talking to him they should have known that something in his mind was not right,” Abrams’ mother, Maria Caldwell, said.
Before the Minnesota Vikings’ home opener Sept. 21, about 100 members of Black Lives Matter lay on the Green Line tracks between the Dale Street and Hamline Avenue stations, forcing Metro Transit to carry fans to TCF Stadium by bus.
During the protest, Abrams said he was headed home about 7 p.m. on Aug. 31 from his job, where he builds boats. He was on the tracks wearing headphones when a transit officer asked him a question.
“I said, ‘I’m 17 and I don’t have no ID.’ ” He said he remembered being thrown onto the ground.
“I said, ‘Get off me!’ ” he said. “I woke up again in the hospital.”
Wegner explained in his police statement that he put Abrams on the ground with a leg sweep, but the teen continued to kick and punch at the officers. Wegner said he put Abrams in a neck restraint until another officer put one handcuff on the teen.
“I released the suspect and was trying to roll him over onto his stomach so we could get him handcuffed,” Wegner wrote.
“When he got onto his side I heard him take a deep breath. He then began to kick again. I was trying to control his upper body by pinning his head down to the ground with my knee.”
In his report, Sgt. Peter Peterson said that the officers’ use of force complied with department policies.