Fired St. Paul police officer fails to win job back

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A St. Paul police officer who was fired last year for not stopping an assault outside a bar failed to win his job back.

According to a state arbitration ruling out on Thursday, the St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell had just cause to fire former Officer Robert Luna. Luna was among five officers that Axtell fired over the same incident.

At the time, the police union in St. Paul promised to challenge their terminations, insisting that the discipline was excessive.

Source: Termination of 5 St. Paul police officers stems from assault at Eastside Checkerboard Pizza last June

The ruling found that Luna did not intervene or investigate an ongoing assault that took place outside of Checkerboard Pizza in 2018. In fact, when the bar owner — a former St. Paul police officer — used pepper spray on the crowd, Luna was heard on his body camera saying “yes, that’s great, that’s good fun for everyone. I love it.”

He then made multiple false statements during the internal affairs investigation, including that he never saw the pepper spray even though it was clearly recorded on his body camera.

“I don’t recall seeing anybody get pepper-sprayed at the time,” he told the investigator, according to the ruling. “Watching the video now, you can probably go back and say, yeah, I could maybe observe somebody getting sprayed.”

At one point Luna also turned his body camera away from the assault after he was encouraged to do so by a superior officer. That officer was Nathan Smith, who also had his firing upheld earlier this year.

The three other fired officers are still challenging their terminations.