The mother of a 13-year-old girl whose arrest by St. Paul, Minnesota, police sparked an angry backlash on social media says her daughter has a mental illness and that officers were overly aggressive in handling her.
The woman says her daughter was “basically treated like an animal.” The Associated Press is not naming the mother in order to protect the juvenile’s identity. Video of the arrest captured by a witness shows three white officers struggling to arrest the black teen as she screams and thrashes on the floor of a UPS store. The mother has accused the officers of racial bias.
Police say the girl violated a no-trespassing order, ran from police and resisted arrest.
St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter called for an internal investigation, calling the video of the Sept. 26 arrest “deeply disturbing.”
Documents provided by the St. Paul Police Department show that Officers Alexander Graham, Grady Sheehy and Charles Busch have an open internal affairs investigation against them.
While police spokesman Steve Linders couldn’t say what the investigations were for, documents indicate all three are being investigated as part of the same incident. Graham is also subject of a second active internal affairs investigation.
Busch and Sheehy have no disciplinary actions in their personnel files. Records from the police department show Graham received an oral reprimand in 2017 for failure to prevent an accident. He has also received several commendations, including a medal of commendation and three life-saving awards for saving the lives of gunshot victims who were severely wounded in separate incidents in 2017 and 2018.
Linders said he did not know if the three officers were aware of the girl’s alleged mental illness, but she was well-known to the police department and these three officers had engaged with her girl before.
“Our officers go through extensive training,” Linders told The Associated Press. He said the goal in an arrest “is always to do that with the least amount of force possible and if force is necessary, the expectation is it’s reasonable and done with respect.”
Linders said all St. Paul police go through training to work with people in crisis “and the focus is on doing everything possible to make sure everyone is safe in any given situation.”
The head of the St. Paul Police Federation, Paul Kuntz, told the Star Tribune the officers acted professionally.
“I think they used the minimal amount of force that they possibly could to get her under control,” Kuntz said. “There were no punches. … Nothing of that nature.”
Kuntz and the union’s attorney did not return messages left by The Associated Press. The officers do not have listed phone numbers.
Police arrested the girl on suspicion of assaulting an officer, obstructing the legal process, fleeing a police officer and trespassing. She was taken to a juvenile detention center. Her mother would not say if she has been formally charged, and the nature of her mental illness was not immediately clear.
Linders, the police spokesman, has said that officers were investigating a report of juveniles trying to break into vehicles when they encountered the girl, and she resisted arrest and refused orders to put her hands behind her back.
Graham, one of the arresting officers, initially saw the girl in the parking lot of a gas station from which she had been banned until August 2020 because she had been “a chronic problem” there, according to Linders. Her background included prior arrests for suspicion of assault, disorderly conduct, theft, auto theft and fleeing from police, he said.
As Graham approached the girl, she ran onto a light rail platform and the officer did not follow her because he was afraid she might jump onto the tracks, Linders said. As Graham responded later to the call about juveniles trying vehicle doors, he found the girl in a nearby UPS store, where a worker videotaped the arrest.
Graham joined the police department in 2016.
According to a 2013 story in the St. Paul Pioneer Press, Graham had been hired as a Ramsey County Sheriff’s deputy in 2010 but was fired in 2011 after then-Sheriff Matt Bostrom was elected. Graham sued, alleging he was fired for working on the campaign of Bob Fletcher, the sheriff who lost to Bostrom and now has the job back.
In the lawsuit, a defense attorney said a background investigation found Graham worked as a non-sworn community services officer at the Roseville Police Department and a supervisor there said he was “deceitful” as well as “manipulative, untrustworthy and immature.” Graham had also been criticized for his work as a temporary corrections officer, with one supervisor saying he “had way too many issues with the inmates.”
Associated Press reporter Amy Forliti contributed from Minneapolis.