A Minnesota corrections officer accused of using excessive force on a restrained prisoner following a staff assault last Friday has since been fired from the agency.
The fight began around 6:40 p.m., as three officers responded to a reported policy violation in the B-west cellblock at Stillwater prison. A confrontation with two inmates quickly escalated. Two officers suffered a dozen blows to the face and head, while a third was stabbed in the ribs with a metal shank.
At some point during the attack, a prisoner reportedly said: “This one’s for George Floyd.”
All three officers were treated for noncritical injuries at an area hospital and later released.
Corrections Commissioner Paul Schnell condemned the attack and vowed to seek criminal assault charges for the inmates involved. He praised his officers for their response, calling their initial use of force to detain the assailants as “reasonable, proportionate and measured.”
However, he said things went awry when an injured officer — later identified by the Star Tribune as Travis Hansen — sprayed a subdued inmate in the face with chemical irritants.
“We are the professionals here and we have to hold people to our standards,” said Schnell, who reviewed surveillance footage of the incident. “What happened to them was wrong ... it’s a serious crime. But that absolute wrong does not legitimize an after-the-fact use of force on somebody who is already under our control. It can’t.”
Schnell declined to comment further on his disciplinary decision, citing restrictions under the state’s Data Practices Act. But a department spokesman confirmed that Hansen was dropped from the payrolls on Tuesday.
Hansen, a 16-year veteran at the agency, could not be reached for comment. As a union member, he is entitled to a lengthy appeals process. AFSCME Council 5, the union representing 2,500 state corrections officers, declined to comment for this report.
“We need to respect the process,” executive director Julie Bleyhl said in a text message.
Hansen’s public personnel file includes one commendation for his response to a large inmate altercation in 2013, where the associate warden applauded his ability to maintain “composure in a high stress environment.” His file also includes two written reprimands, one of which was for refusing to work the post he was assigned to.
The attack came just three days after another officer at the same facility was placed on paid leave for an outburst during a statewide moment of silence for Floyd, who died under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer last month.
“Is this for the injustice of having Derek Chauvin locked up?” the officer reportedly said, referring to the fired Minneapolis officer now charged with second-degree murder in Floyd’s death.