ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell says Rep. John Thompson bullied officers and misused his official position during his daughter’s traffic stop over the weekend.
According to a police report, the incident took place Sunday afternoon as an officer was working a state-funded Toward Zero Death detail. The officer saw a van swerving out of its lane on Interstate 35E, so they ran the license plates and discovered the registration had expired two years previously.
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After the motorist exited at Cayuga Street and stopped at a red light, the officer confirmed the expired registration and attempted to pull over the vehicle. Police say the motorist did not pull over initially, and the officer had to use their siren multiple times before the motorist pulled over on Westminster Street.
Police say the motorist was not cooperative, so the officer called for backup.
Additional officers arrived at the scene, placed a pursuit terminator under the van’s tires and another officer tried to speak with the driver.
“While this was happening, another vehicle approached the scene at a high rate of speed and stopped in front of the van,” police said. “A man got out of the vehicle and began yelling at officers, expressing displeasure with treatment of the van’s driver (who he identified as his daughter) and the number of officers at the traffic stop. He also identified himself by handing out business cards.”
Police said the business cards identified the man as Thompson, who “continued to yell and scream in an irate fashion” while mentioning his position several times.
The officers told the driver to get out of the van for field sobriety tests, but the driver again refused, police said. Officers said that if she didn’t exit the van, she’d be charged with refusing a field sobriety test.
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According to police, officers ultimately allow the driver to go home with her father, Thompson, and decided to charge her out of custody. It was at that point, the driver got out of the van and went with Thompson.
The police chief spoke out about the incident in a social media post Monday, saying the traffic stop “turned ugly fast.”
“Here we go again,” Axtell said. “It’s an absolute shame—that an official would attempt to intimidate and bully police officers, that he would misuse his official position, that officers jobs should have to endure illegitimate claims of racism, that John Thompson is still serving in the Legislature .”
Axtell says his officers were put in a difficult position and made the best decision they could de-escalate the situation.
“I wish state law allowed us to release the body worn camera footage. But we can’t at this time,” Axtell said. However, Rep. Thompson or his daughter can. And I encourage them to do so. Maybe then something will change.”
Last year, Thompson was pulled over on the Fourth of July in downtown St. Paul for driving without a front license plate. He showed an expired Wisconsin driver’s license during the stop.
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Thompson accused an officer who pulled him over of racial profiling, sparking outcry from police, who said the stop was by the books. Thompson later apologized.