AFRICANGLOBE – A police department released footage on Tuesday which reveals the shocking moment that a man was pepper-sprayed in the ear while handcuffed in a squad car.
The tape of Eric Hightower’s arrest last August was made public after a separate cellphone video from a concerned citizen shows Officer Jesse Zilge viciously beating the man as he lay on the sidewalk.
The St Paul Police Department camera shows Hightower being dragged into the rear of the car by his hair before Officer Matthew Gorans sprays Mace in his ear.
The suspect screams: ‘He sprayed my ear!’ and begs officers to wipe away the burning sensation from his eyes and ear.
Pepper spray incapacitates victims for up to 45 minutes with painful and burning sensations from the ingredient oleoresin capsicum, a byproduct of cayenne pepper. It can also cause temporary blindness and swelling.
Hightower said the spray caused his eyes to swell and his face was numb. He said he couldn’t hear anything out of his right ear.
He later used a water fountain to flush out his eyes at the jail and received ice packs for swelling on his chest.
Jeff Martin, president of the NAACP in St Paul told the Star Tribune that the officers were ‘bullies in a badge’.
He added: ‘I think it’s worse because you have a person that’s totally defenseless.’
Zilge and Gorans could face disciplinary action over the new tape, said a St Paul police spokesman. However neither officer faces criminal charges.
In August 2012, Zilge was caught on camera phone kicking Hightower once in the chest and then with the assistance of another officer, slamming his head onto the hood of a squad car.
Police grunted that Hightower was a dangerous suspect who was wanted by authorities for allegedly threatening to kill his ex-girlfriend which is the reason he was pulled over.
Zilge was placed on leave at the time and was subject of an internal investigation.
Hightower said last year that he and his friends were on their way to a park when an officer jumped out of a squad car and ordered everyone onto the ground.
The officer singled out Hightower and began spraying him with a chemical.
Hightower said he never resists arrest, but said: ‘Why would I get down on the ground when you still haven’t told me what was I under arrest for?
‘I don’t feel like I was obligated to get down on the ground just because you said so.’
While on the ground, Hightower said he continued to ask the officer what he did wrong, but the officer wouldn’t say. Hightower said the officer pointed his Taser at him, but didn’t use it. He said the officer became agitated.
‘He sprayed me in my face again. I was laying on my side, I was hocking up the stuff, it was choking me and he ran towards me, kicked me in the chest, kicked me in the chin,’ Hightower said.
A brief report filed by Zilge lists hands, fists and feet among the weapons used by police in the arrest, but does not describe the events shown in the video that was recorded by a citizen.
Hightower, 30, had been accused of threatening to harm his ex-girlfriend. He was charged last August with stalking, making terroristic threats and criminal damage to property.
Police spokesman Howie Padilla said police learned of the video after someone sent a link to the department and the Chief Thomas Smith of St Paul. Police ordered an internal investigation.
‘The video of a St. Paul police officer striking a suspect raises serious questions about the conduct of the officer,’ said Mayor Chris Coleman said in a statement.
‘I have high expectations for the department and its employees. We will fully investigate and take appropriate action.’
‘Back-up was not immediately available. And maybe our officials shouldn’t make comments about their concern until the investigation has run its course.’
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