ST PAUL, Minn. — A state lawmaker who previously accused St. Paul police of racial profiling has issued a statement after an interaction with officers on Sunday, following an incident involving his adult daughter.
In his statement Tuesday, Rep. John Thompson said he “responded as any concerned father would,” while also crediting the “exemplary” job of officers in handling a “verifiable mental health episode” involving his daughter.
St. Paul police spokesman Steve Linders said Sunday afternoon's incident started when an officer looking for impaired drivers noticed a van swerve out of its lane on I-35E near Cayuga Street. The officer reportedly noticed the vehicle had expired tabs and activated her emergency lights and siren, but the motorist initially refused to pull over.
Linders said once the driver did pull over, she refused to roll down her window more than an inch, but did follow requests to turn off the vehicle and place her keys on the dashboard. Linders said since the officer was unsure of what was happening with the driver, additional squads were requested for backup, which Linders said is standard procedure to ensure the safety of both police and subjects.
Officers said another car then approached "at a high rate of speed" and stopped in front of the van. The man, later identified as Rep. Thompson, allegedly began yelling at officers, objecting to treatment of the van driver and the number of police at the traffic stop. Police allege he mentioned his position as an elected official several times.
The officer claimed she noticed the smell of illegal drugs, but the driver refused a field sobriety test. Police decided to release her to her father, and are moving to charge the woman with refusing a sobriety test.
In his statement released Tuesday, Thompson explained the large police presence was triggering for his daughter:
"As an elected official I certainly would not attempt to misuse, intimidate or bully police officers with my official position," Thompson's statement said. "I responded as any concerned father would, arriving at a chaotic scene to help deal with my frightened daughter, who was having a verifiable mental health episode, which was triggered by the large presence of the SPPD. Additionally the law enforcement officers on scene treated me with the utmost respect and I want (to) highlight the exemplary job the officers did deescalating the situation. Thank you. I have faith the handling of my daughter and I creates the standard of treatment going forward, when dealing w/ mental health issues."
However, the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association challenged Rep. Thompson's version of events on Tuesday, citing a statement by St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell which characterized Thompson's involvement as "interfering" and an "attempt to intimidate and bully" the officers. The MPPOA urged Thompson to support the release of body camera video of the incident, citing his past support of body-worn camera transparency in the legislature.
When asked by MPR News in person Wednesday if he'd talk more about the April 24 incident, Thompson initially declined an interview before adding that his daughter's mental health is the most important part of the story.
"We can deal with the tickets, we can deal with that in court, but her mental health is what's more important to me," he said.
"She made it home safe. You know African Americans with mental health on the side of the road with officers behind them, that doesn’t normally pan out well," he continued. "Just to be able to explain to the officers who’s behind the wheel, I was able to do that. Everybody made it home safe."
Thompson added that he thought the officers who responded to the incident on Sunday "did a good job." When asked if he'll allow police body camera to be released, Rep. Thompson said several times "I'm not making any more statements."
In the summer of 2021, Thompson faced calls to resign his seat in the Minnesota legislature after police reports surfaced from years ago detailing police calls and domestic assault allegations involving the representative and his wife. There was also a July 4 traffic stop where Thompson claimed he'd been racially profiled and pulled over for "driving while black."
The sergeant who stopped him at that time said Thompson launched his car too quickly from a stop light and was missing a front license plate.
Chief Todd Axtell called on Thompson to apologize, and St. Paul police revealed to reporters that Thompson was stopped while driving with a license indicating he was a resident of Wisconsin. That raised questions about whether Thompson was qualified to hold a seat in the legislature.
Thompson was expelled from the DFL caucus in September, but vowed to continue in the legislature as an independent.
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