The St. Paul police officer accused of punching a possibly suicidal 14-year-old girl testified Wednesday that he intended no harm when he used a “startle flinch response” technique to distract the girl after she spat in his face.
Defense attorney Peter Wold asked officer Michael P. Soucheray II if his fist made contact with the girl’s face.
“…I didn’t feel anything, and I may have brushed her cheek,” Soucheray testified on the last day of testimony in his trial.
Soucheray, 39, is charged in Ramsey County District Court with one count of misdemeanor fifth-degree assault for allegedly punching the girl twice and grabbing her face while she was handcuffed in his squad.
Assistant Minneapolis city attorney Christopher Bates is prosecuting the case to avoid conflicts of interest.
Soucheray is claiming self-defense, and Wold has tried to show that the girl was out of control until Soucheray and his partner, officer Chris Rhoades, arrived at a shelter for sexually exploited girls to address the girls’ situation.
De’Andra Walker, a youth counselor at the shelter, Brittany’s Place, said she called dispatch on Dec. 1 for an ambulance to take the girl to a hospital because she had been cutting herself with a metal object and refused to cooperate with a “safety plan” that would have allowed her to stay.
Under questioning by Wold, Soucheray said that the “startle flinch response” is designed to fake someone out and stop them from continuing a behavior.
Bates noted that in his police report, Soucheray wrote that he struck the girl — not that the girl had alleged he did so.
“…sout of natural reaction, I struck [the girl] in the face with my left hand…,” Soucheray read from his police report.
“Is that phrase [startle flinch response] anywhere in your report?” Bates asked.
“No,” Soucheray said.
Soucheray said he didn’t note that it was an allegation because department policy required documenting use-of-force whether or not someone is hurt.
“Chalk it up to a bad report,” Soucheray said.
Ramsey County spokesman John Siqveland provided information not presented at trial showing that the county Emergency Communications Center had been called twice that night to send an ambulance to the scene, and that police canceled them both.
Walker first called 911 about 8:17 p.m. St. Paul police and an ambulance were dispatched, which Siqveland said is protocol in such cases.
At 8:26 p.m., police called from the shelter and canceled the ambulance. (Walker testified that the girl was walking around the block.)
At 8:46 p.m., Walker called 911 a second time. At 8:59 p.m., police at Brittany’s Place called dispatch for an ambulance. A minute later, police canceled it.
Jury deliberations begin Thursday.