January 23, 2017 10:02 PM
A St. Paul police officer is charged with misdemeanor assault after prosecutors say he punched a 14-year-old girl in the face.
According to a criminal complaint filed Monday, the girl was handcuffed at the time of the December incident and was in the back of a squad car. The complaint says Officer Michael Soucheray II hit the girl twice after she spit in his face.
Soucheray was placed on paid leave Monday.
His attorney, Peter Wold, says Soucheray's reaction was in self-defense and he pushed the girl away after she committed felony assault by spitting at him, that would be irritating to anyone but when you're in close quarters it would be dangerous too.
Wold says his client used reasonable force.
The complaint says officers were trying to take the Native American girl to a hospital because she was reportedly suicidal, but she refused to go and became agitated.
Dave Bicking is an activist with Communities United Against Police Brutality. He insists Soucheray's actions don't fall under the state's justified use of force law.
"To apprehend someone, to bring someone under control or to defend themselves or the public, but it's never to be used as a punishment," said Bicking.
The teen was also cited with assault for spitting at the officer. Soucheray's charge is a misdemeanor which calls for a maximum penalty of 90 days in jail, if convicted. To avoid any conflict of interest, the Minneapolis City Attorney's office is prosecuting the case. The Dakota County Sheriff's department did the initial investigation.
Officer Soucheray has been disciplined three times during his seven years on the force. He's also received two Medals of Commendation along with a number of letters of support from citizens.
Monday, Soucheray was put on paid leave and Chief Todd Axtell issued a statement addressing expectations and said it part, "when incidents occur that do not meet those standards, swift action is taken to hold ourselves accountable."
There is an ongoing Internal Affairs investigation as well.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Nate Leding & Beth McDonough
Updated: January 23, 2017 10:02 PM
Created: January 23, 2017 05:03 PM
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