Opinion editor's note: Editorials represent the opinions of the Star Tribune Editorial Board, which operates independently from the newsroom.


Minnesota state Rep. John Thompson, already expelled from the DFL caucus for previous incidents, has had yet another run-in with the law.

This one occurred Sunday afternoon, when a St. Paul police officer saw a van swerving badly on the highway. When stopped, the female driver refused to do more than crack open the window and then ignored the officer, who smelled marijuana, according to police. What ensued was a chaotic scene. The officer called for backup, which is standard.

Thompson pulled up in a separate vehicle, saying he had run out of gas on his way to the State Capitol and that the driver, his daughter, was bringing more. (So how, one wonders, did he arrive at the scene?) The car driven by the daughter and pulled over by police was registered to Thompson, with tabs that expired two years ago. The daughter refused a field sobriety test.

St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell, who reviewed the body camera footage, said Thompson interfered with the traffic stop, showed his legislative business card to police, yelled at them and repeatedly noted that he was a state legislator.

"It's an absolute shame — that an elected official would attempt to intimidate and bully police officers, that he would misuse his official position, that officers doing their jobs should have to endure illegitimate claims of racism, that John Thompson is still serving in the Legislature," Axtell wrote on his Facebook page Monday. The Legislature, it should be noted, is in the midst of debating a criminal-justice bill with provisions that could affect law enforcement.

If Axtell sounds frustrated, it's for good reason. Thompson is amassing a rather lengthy record of police run-ins and unruly conduct. In 2019, Thompson, not yet a representative, was caught on a surveillance video refusing to leave after North Memorial Health Hospital tried to disperse a large crowd of which he was a part. The video shows Thompson shouting at Robbinsdale officers, blocking the emergency room door and physically struggling with police. He later claimed he was targeted because he was Black. A jury later found Thompson guilty of obstructing the legal process and resisting arrest.

In 2020, as a first-time legislative candidate, Thompson was protesting with others outside the Hugo home of Bob Kroll, who at the time was president of the Minneapolis police union. Video showed Thompson shouting to the crowd, "This whole [expletive] state burned down for 20 [expletive] dollars. You think we give a f--- about Hugo burning down?"

In July 2021, Thompson was stopped by St. Paul police for driving without a front license plate. The officer found that Thompson's driving privileges in Minnesota had been suspended for failure to pay back child support. Thompson, who had lived for 18 years in St. Paul and held elective office here, had never even applied for a Minnesota driver's license, though the law requires one within 60 days of becoming a resident.

Then too, Thompson claimed he was racially profiled by the officer. Axtell, who also reviewed that footage, said the stop was "by the books" and released it under a state provision that allows footage to be shown to "dispel widespread rumor." The footage showed what appeared to be a routine stop, save for Thompson's repeated accusations that the officer stopped him "for being Black." Thompson apologized to the officer after the footage was released and one day after his conviction for the 2019 incident.

In the aftermath of that incident, news reports showed that between 2003 and 2009 Thompson in four incidents was accused of punching, hitting and choking women, sometimes in the presence of young children. He was never convicted of domestic violence, but following the revelations, Gov. Tim Walz called for his resignation and the House DFL expelled him from its caucus. The Star Tribune Editorial Board also urged Thompson to resign. Thompson refused and is an independent.

Thompson has disputed the police account of last weekend's incident, saying in a prepared statement that he responded "as any concerned father would."

He said his daughter "was having a verifiable mental health episode, which was triggered by the large presence of the SPPD." Thompson added that "I certainly would not attempt to misuse, intimidate or bully police officers with my official position" — but here his credibility gap is significant. If he wants to be believed, the solution is easy: Give the OK to make the bodycam footage public. When members of his legislative staff were asked by reporters whether he would do so, they didn't respond.

There's another option for Thompson. He could end his brief, undistinguished legislative career now and allow his district to make a clean break and move on to more responsible, effective representation.