Updated: July 10, 2021 10:43 AM
Created: July 09, 2021 06:26 PM
St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell wants an apology of Minnesota DFL state Rep. John Thompson, saying the lawmaker unfairly accused a police sergeant of racial profiling. Thompson made the accusation on Tuesday during a rally in honor of Philando Castile outside the governor's residence.
"We're still getting 'driving while Black' tickets in this state and in fact in St. Paul," Thompson said. "So let's just call it what it is, right...I shouldn't have to be profiled, so this is ridiculous. Oh, and by the way, it was a sergeant here in St. Paul by the way. We promote bad behavior."
Axtell responded Friday in a Facebook posting.
"These aren’t accusations I take lightly, so I looked into the traffic stop, watched the body worn camera footage and spoke to the sergeant," Axtell wrote. "This stop, made at about 1:20 in the morning, had absolutely nothing to do with the driver’s race."
"Simply put, the traffic stop was by the books," Axtell continued. "What happened afterwards was anything but, I’m dismayed and disappointed by the state representative’s response to the stop. Rather than taking responsibility for his own decisions and actions, he attempted to deflect, cast aspersions and deny any wrongdoing."
Axtell concluded by asking for an apology. "The driver, an elected official who does not dispute driving without a front license plate, owes our sergeant an apology."
Thompson has not responded to nearly a dozen requests for a response from 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS via phone, text and email.
We've also learned more about the unusual issue of Thompson having only a Wisconsin driver's license despite serving in the Minnesota State Legislature. A Wisconsin Department of Public Safety spokesman confirmed Thompson has had a license in that state since 2000 and has renewed it in 2005, 2012 and in November of 2020, the same month he was elected to represent the east of St. Paul in Minnesota.
The Minnesota Department of Public Safety says Thompson has never had a Minnesota driver's license. From May 2019 until this week his Minnesota "driving privileges" were suspended due to unpaid child support. Public safety officials said that issue was taken care of this week and he is now eligible to get a Minnesota driver's license.
Without any response from Thompson, it's difficult to know whether he claims his residency in Minnesota or Wisconsin.
The Minnesota Secretary of State provided 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS with a copy of Thompson's affidavit of candidacy he filed when he ran for office in 2020. He was allowed to only list a P.O. box in St. Paul after checking a box that allows a residence to be classified as private data. A candidate who checks that box certifies "a police report has been submitted or I have an order for protections for my (or my family's safety, or my address is otherwise private by Minnesota law."
A spokeswoman for the Minnesota Secretary of State, Risikat Adesaogun, told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS about Thompson's private address request, "I won't say it never happens, but it's not very common practice."
It's unclear what, if any, impact this will have on Thompson's ability to continue serving in the Minnesota Legislature without more clarity on his residency.
Meanwhile, Thompson declined to give St. Paul Police permission to release the body camera video of his traffic stop. That prompted the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association to issue a statement demanding the video's release.
"Rep. Thompson's signature issue at the state legislature was advocating for rapid release of police officer's body camera footage," MPPOA Executive Director Brian Peters said. "Now he's blocking the public release of body camera footage of his own incident with law enforcement this past week. As a public official, it's hypocritical and irresponsible. Constituents have the right to see how their legislator conducted himself, particularly when he made such strong claims about what happened during the traffic stop."
Thompson has long been a lightning rod for controversy since first finding himself in the public spotlight as a friend of Philando Castile who was killed by police in 2016. Thompson was later criticized for beating effigies for former Minneapolis Police Federation leader Bob Kroll and his wife outside their home in Hugo.
He also made profane statements about the people of Hugo and said, "...you think we give a [expletive] about burning Hugo down?"
During the recent legislative session, Thompson criticized Gov. Tim Walz for not pushing for more police reform, demanding that the governor show more "testicular fortitude."
It was Thompson's first year in the Legislature.
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