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Minn. officers on leave after video shows suspect being kicked

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 1:51 PM EDT, Sat September 1, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Amateur video shows Officer Jesse Zilge kicking Eric Hightower in his chest
  • Two officers are on leave pending results of an investigation
  • St. Paul Police Federation urges people not to rush to judgment

(CNN) -- A second St. Paul, Minnesota, police officer was on leave Friday in the wake of an arrest video that showed an officer kicking a suspect who was lying on the ground.

The officer who kicked the suspect, identified by police as Jesse Zilge, had been put on leave earlier in the week.

The name of the second officer was not released; police did not specify what role he played in the incident.

An investigation continued into the Tuesday arrest of Eric Hightower, who police had been seeking for suspicion of making terroristic threats.

The president of the St. Paul Police Federation, the union that represents Zilge, urged people not to rush to judgment.

"Once this process is complete, we believe the facts will show that a good cop was in a dangerous situation with a known dangerous individual," Dave Titus said in a statement. "The video footage captured by an onlooker does not provide complete context of the incident and by no means demonstrates how the officer perceived the threat at hand."

Hightower is already on the ground when the video made by a bystander begins. He can be heard shouting, "What are you arresting me for?"

In an apparent response to something Zilge said, Hightower then asked, "Assault on who? Can you tell me what's going on?"

A male voice on the video can be heard saying Hightower had been shot with pepper spray. Several other voices heckle the officer.

At one point, Hightower begins to cough and the officer kicks him in the chest once.

Zilge then handcuffs Hightower and, with the assistance of another officer, slams the suspect against the hood of a waiting police car.

The video, posted on YouTube, is shot from across the street of where the arrest took place was. It is grainy and can be difficult at times to hear what the officer and suspect are saying.

At one point, the officer tells onlookers to calm down.

"He beat up a woman last night," Zilge said. Hightower responded: "You lying, man! I ain't even been around here."

The video caught the attention of St. Paul Police Chief Tom Smith, who "found that the video images raised questions about use of force and immediately ordered a thorough internal investigation into the circumstances surrounding all aspects of the arrest, from start to finish," according to police.

The two officers are on leave pending the outcome of that investigation.

It was not immediately clear whether Zilge had retained an attorney. A listed number for the officer was not in working order.

For his part, Hightower is accused of threatening his ex-girlfriend on about August 24-28. Bail was set at $35,000 and, according to CNN affiliate KARE, Hightower bonded out of jail on Thursday. Specifically, he was charged with stalking, making terroristic threats and criminal damage of property.

According to the complaint against him, which cites comments from his ex-girlfriend, Hightower strangled and threatened to kill her.

KARE spoke to some of Hightower's family members, who gathered outside a courthouse where Hightower made his first appearance Friday.

"Regardless of what he was getting charged with, I don't think the actions were taken appropriately for somebody who's not resisting," Hightower's cousin, Antoine Hightower, told the affiliate.

A call seeking comment from Hightower's attorney was not immediately returned Friday.

CNN's Nigel Walwyn and Calandra Corder contributed to this report.

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