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Arbitrator: St. Paul Officer Should be Reinstated

Updated: 02/04/2014 12:14 PM
Created: 02/03/2014 8:08 PM KSTP.com
By: Leslie Dyste

There is a decision on the fate of a St. Paul Police officer caught on camera pepper spraying a suspect. 

In July, video was released that showed suspect Eric Hightower in the back of a squad car during an arrest. In the squad car video, you can see Officer Matt Gorans pepper-spraying Hightower. Hightower's arrest occurred in August of 2012.

KSTP has learned the arbitrator felt that excessive force was not used during the pepper-spraying portion of the arrest. After three days of reviewing evidence and hearing from 20 witnesses, the arbitrator decided to reinstate Gorans.

In a first-of-its-kind lawsuit, the Police Union sued the city of St. Paul over releasing the video, saying it was too soon and violated state law. There is no update on the status of that lawsuit.

The Union President Dave Titus said there was so much more to this arrest than what the public has seen in the video.

"This information got shot out there on a 7 second video and people drew their own conclusions, that was hard on officer Matt Gorans because that was not even close to the complete story," said Titus.

"I think the arbitrator made the right decision based on the evidence. Matt's a good guy and a good cop," St. Paul Police Federation Attorney Chris Wachtler said. "We let the process play out all along; it was the right course and Matt's going to be reinstated."

A different video of Hightower's arrest, shot by a bystander, got a lot of attention on YouTube. It shows Officer Jesse Zilge kicking Hightower. A final decision on his fate has not been made yet.

The attorney representing the Union says Gorans will receive full back pay. He will also have to serve a one-day suspension for failing to write a clear police report.


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