The West St. Paul Police Department says it has received scores of complaints and death threats after a video was posted on YouTube this week showing an officer trying to arrest a man who refused to show ID.
The 8 minute and 40 second video clip posted by Devin Jerry Riley who goes by “Cosmic Hustle” shows his interaction with officer Kurtis Syvertsen, which took place June 7 outside an apartment building on the 1700 block of Oakdale Avenue.
Syvertsen, who believed that Riley had an active arrest warrant, approached and asked Riley to identify himself. Riley refused; he was arrested and subsequently released at the scene. The next day, Riley was charged with obstructing the legal process and possession of drug paraphernalia, according to court documents.
The incident sparked an outcry and threats directed to police, including comments on social media in support of the murder of a New York City police officer Wednesday. Some people have even called and e-mailed the West St. Paul Police station, said Lt. Brian Sturgeon.
“We’re getting calls from all over the country, people calling for the officer to be fired, disciplined and get more training,” Sturgeon said. “Some officers have gotten e-mails saying they will get shot. Others have threatened to kill officers and espoused ambushing West St. Paul officers.”
In the video, which has been viewed about 10,000 times since it was posted Tuesday, Riley claimed he was illegally detained and harassed by police for riding his bicycle on the sidewalk.
“This officer came and harassed me for no reason,” he says in the video. “I do not need an ID to be on the sidewalk on a sunny day. I did nothing wrong. I suspect this is an assault. I don’t know why I am being detained.”
The video shows Riley being defiant and refusing to show his ID and questioning Syvertsen, demanding to know why he was being detained. In one part he is heard yelling for help and asking bystanders to call 911.
In a statement posted on its Facebook page, the department said that on June 8, the day after the incident, officers confirmed that a felony arrest warrant had been issued for Riley on June 7, but had not yet been entered into the database. The warrant was among eight warrants that had been issued for Riley since May 17, the department said in the statement.
Court records show that authorities issued a warrant on June 7 after Riley failed to appear in court on charges of drunken driving and violation of a no-contact order stemming from a domestic abuse case.
“As is often the case, this clip does not tell the whole story. We would like to clear that up,” the department wrote.
Officers had been at a cookout when they spotted Riley on the apartment complex grounds around 7:30 p.m. watching the crowd, which included many children. Riley appeared to be taking photographs of them. The suspicious behavior caught the attention of Syvertsen, who believed he knew Riley and that there was a warrant out for his arrest.
Syvertsen, who has been with West St. Paul since 2014, approached and attempted to verify Riley’s identity, according to the department’s statement.
“He [Syvertsen] did nothing illegal,” Sturgeon said. “He [Riley] was within five feet taking pictures and that was suspicious activity. We feel confident that was suspicious and a reason to ask for ID.”
It’s not the first time Riley has tried to provoke police and get officers to engage in unethical behavior, Sturgeon said. “We have had contact with him many times.”
Sturgeon said the calls and e-mails have taken a toll on his department.
“We are on edge with all the anti-police and anti-government feelings out there,” Sturgeon said. “But we will remain ethical.”
Sturgeon said his department has also received many calls to support officers and compliment the department for keeping the community safe.
Riley has previous convictions for making terroristic threats, drug possession, driving after his license was revoked and drunken driving, court records show
He is due in to appear in Dakota County District Court on the most recent charges on Thursday.