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

June 17, 2019 12:00 PM

A source said the allegations against five St. Paul police officers that led to their termination Thursday stem from an assault that occurred on June 17 of last year at Eastside Checkerboard Pizza (listed in a criminal complaint as Checker's Pizza) on the 900 block of Arcade Street in St. Paul.

St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell said only that the five officers failed to intervene in a physical altercation that occurred while they were responding to a call.

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RELATED: St. Paul Police Chief announces termination of 5 officers for not intervening in assault

He said he would not give out specific details on the matter, citing privacy laws, but stated his objection to the events that led to the terminations.

"It involved deceit and went against everything I stand for and what we stand for as a department," Axtell said.

The source said the allegations can be traced to the assault last summer.

In that case, a now 50-year-old man, Tou Mo Cha, of Vadnais Heights - himself a former St. Paul police officer - was charged with two counts of second-degree assault with a dangerous weapon and one count of third-degree assault.

He pleaded not guilty to those charges this past April and pre-trial is expected to begin on July 15.

The criminal complaint identifies Cha as the owner of the establishment where the altercation took place.

2018 criminal complaint against Tou Mo Cha

According to the complaint, a fight initially broke out at a gathering of family members. Police responded and dispersed the crowd. Then one of the responding squad cars is alleged to have left the immediate area, and parked with its lights off across the street.

When another fight broke out, the complaint states the squad car approached the crowd. The video recording system in the car was alleged to have captured a man down on all fours on the sidewalk outside the establishment.

An unidentified man was allegedly striking the man with his fists. While another man - identified as Cha (whom the complaint states was wearing a camouflage muscle shirt) - was alleged to have swung a baton over his head and struck him while he was completely defenseless.

The man reportedly told police he was on the sidewalk when he was pepper-sprayed by Cha, who allegedly struck him with a baton.

The complaint states the man was taken to the hospital, where he was treated for a concussion and needed to have two "significant lacerations in his head closed with seven and (17) staples, respectively."

He reportedly told police "he was terrified of retaliation from Tou Cha."

The complaint goes on to state Cha showed an investigator surveillance video, and said he was going to hit someone with a baton, but instead accidentally knocked a bouncer into the street. The investigator noted that was documented in the video, but the video did not show the area where the man was struck.

Cha allegedly said the camera in that area didn't work. But the video reportedly did show Cha, wearing a camouflage muscle shirt, swinging a baton.

Cha had previously pleaded guilty to loaning out his service pistol, which was then used in a shooting at a Maplewood home belonging to a Hmong community leader. That incident led to his resignation from the force.

Reports said Cha claimed he lent the gun to businessman Chue Chou Tchang, after Xang Vang - the Hmong community leader - threatened both Tchang and his family.

Tchang denied the allegations.

A source identified the officers terminated Thursday as Nicholas Grandei, Robert Luna, Christopher Rhoades, Nathan Smith and Jordan Wild.

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