ST. PAUL, Minn. - Jurors in Ramsey County have acquitted a St. Paul police officer who was charged with punching a 14-year-old girl last year.
St. Paul Police Officer Michael Soucheray II was on trial for misdemeanor assault following the Dec. 2016 incident. According to a criminal complaint, officers were trying to take the girl to a hospital because she was reportedly suicidal, but she refused to go and became agitated.
The charge stated the girl was handcuffed and in the back of a squad car when Soucheray hit the girl after she spat in his face. Soucheray's attorney argued his client's actions were in self-defense.
On Thursday, the St. Paul Police Department released video of the incident, which had been trial evidence.
Soucheray remains on paid leave.
"The officer’s actions do not in any way, shape or form reflect, or align with, our values, expectations or mission," Saint Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell said in a statement Thursday.
"When this issue was first brought to my attention, I took immediate action and asked another agency to review the matter. Now that the jury has made its decision, I will once again respond as swiftly as the law allows to ensure that our internal process addresses this matter properly," Axtell added.
Meantime, the officer's attorney defended his client's actions saying Soucheray simply employed a "diversion technique" designed to stop a person mid-action. In this case, Attorney Peter Wold argued, Soucheray was stopping the teenager from spitting again in the officer's face.
"The optics of it, the story of it, if you look at it superficially, alarming. I mean, this is a big strong guy with a handcuffed thirteen year old stressed child. And it looks like he was swinging at her face. But that was without the context of what was going on, and I’m confident the jury saw the context and did exactly the right thing," Wold said, adding that spitting at a police officer is a felony with which the teenager wasn't charged.