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Minnesota police officer facing charges for hitting man in detox

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 11:25 PM EDT, Thu October 4, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: The accused officer's lawyer says his clients' actions were 100% justified
  • An independent counsel decides to press charges against a Duluth police officer
  • Video shows him beating up a man in a detox facility, after the man pawed at him
  • Earlier, the officer's lawyer called the accusation against his client "a little extreme"

(CNN) -- A Duluth, Minnesota, police officer will face criminal charges for, as a video shows, beating up a man in a detox facility last month, the city's police department said Thursday.

Shawn Reed, the independent counsel looking into the case, decided Thursday to press charges against Officer Richard Jouppi, according to a news release from Duluth police.

Jouppi will face counts of fifth-degree assault and disorderly conduct, both misdemeanors.

The officer's attorney, Frederic Bruno, defended his clients' actions as "100%" justified.

According to a police report written by Jouppi, officers responded on September 21 to transport a man -- later identified as Anthony Jackson -- who witnesses described as being "extremely intoxicated (and) in two fights tonight." Duluth police spokesman Jim Hansen said last Friday that officers had gone to a halfway house because Jackson had violated its no-drinking policy.

Jackson was brought to the Duluth Detoxification Center "without incident," though once there the police report indicates he exchanged "unpleasant remarks" with a female staff member.

Security camera footage, later released to media, shows Jackson in a room sitting in a wheelchair trying to take off his coat. He stands up, trying to remove his jacket, when the police officer -- Jouppi, who had been standing by the door -- arrives and pins Jackson's arm behind his head, pushing him back.

The video shows Jackson pawing once at the police officer's face, as his other arm is pinned back. Jouppi responds with five punches to Jackson's head, then grabs him by the neck and pulls him off his wheelchair and onto the floor.

"I controlled his right arm at the elbow in order to prevent Jackson from falling through with his threat to strike (a) staff member," Jouppi wrote in the police report.

"I sought to take Jackson into custody and delivered two strikes to Jackson's face, as it was the only target presented to me at the time and in order to keep him from delivering more strikes I flipped the wheelchair ... which brought Jackson's back down to the ground."

Jackson was booked on charged of felony assault and later released, Hansen said. But those charges have since been dropped, according to Ernie Swartout, records manager for the Duluth police department -- a move that Jouppi's lawyer said was "expected" and "is pandering to the public."

Division Deputy Chief Mike Tusken told reporters last Friday that police had since visited Jackson "to reassure (him) that we are taking this seriously and just give him an update that we're doing an investigation on the matter."

The police official also confirmed that Jouppi has been accused in other incidents.

"It is not the first time there have been complaints on the officer," Tusken said.

Jouppi's attorney described the charges facing his client, even though misdemeanors, as "disturbing" and unwarranted.

"It is a black-and-white case," Bruno said, adding there is no chance his client will settle.

The attorney asserts that Jackson "clearly stands up in the video and strikes the police officer."

"You strike a cop, and you are in no man's land," Bruno said.

Texas: Police kill amputee in wheelchair at home for the mentally ill

Philadelphia top cop says he plans to fire officer who struck parade-goer

Judge in video beating seeks reinstatement

CNN's Elwyn Lopez, John Fricke and Greg Botelho contributed to this report.

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