Ex-Officer Minnesota Sentenced to 6 Years in Beating of Unarmed Black Man

White St. Paul Officer Apologizes During Sentencing for Assaulting Innocent Black Man Was Already Getting Mauled By Police Dog

A former St. Paul, Minnesota officer was sentenced to six years in prison by a federal court judge on Friday, May 21, for using excessive force against an unarmed civilian during a 2016 arrest involving a K-9. Brett Palkowitsch, 31, had been found guilty of kicking and injuring then-52-year-old Frank Baker as another officer was allowing a police dog to maul Baker’s leg.

Palkowitsch was also found guilty of a civil rights violation in November 2019 apologized for his use of excessive force. The former officer also waived the right to appeal the conviction. The hearing was delayed due to the pandemic.

“Law enforcement officers take an oath to serve and protect the public,” the FBI Minneapolis Field Office said in a statement. “When an officer betrays that oath and violates a person’s civil rights, that officer must be held accountable. Our community, and our profession, deserve no less.”

Palkowitsch’s prison sentence was expected to be between four and five years,. However, District Judge Wilhelmina Wright rejected a May 14 sentencing agreement.

“You flagrantly abused that trust,” she said. The incident took place on June 24, 2016, Baker had arrived at his home when he took off his dress shirt and remained in his vehicle to make a phone call. Around the same time someone made a report about a potential fight and the dispatcher told police the suspect was a Black man with dreads wearing a white T-shirt.

Once police arrived on the scene they found no sign of a fight but see Baker in his car. K-9 handler Brian Ficcadenti was the first to approach the Baker and ordered him out of the car. According to testimony, Baker complied with the command, however, when he emerged from the vehicle with police yelling at him and the dog barking at him Ficcadenti set the dog on the grandfather within seven seconds of his emergence from his car.

With Baker on the ground with the dog’s mouth clamped around his leg, Palkowitsch approached to handcuff him, however, he first kicked the subdued and compliant man three times in the ribs. The court heard how the kicks broke seven of Baker’s ribs and collapsed both his lungs. Three other officers who were also at the scene have testified that Baker was not uncooperative and was not believed to be a threat. Video footage of the encounter was played repeatedly during the trial.

The injury to Baker’s leg required skin grafts. Baker filed a lawsuit against the city of St. Paul and settled the suit for $2 million in 2017. Palkowitsch was fired from the department in 2019 after a jury found him guilty for the excessive use of force. Baker who’s now 57 suffers from health problems related to injuries he sustained in the K-9 attack.

“They call me the Black superman,” Baker told MPR News. “Because anybody who took a beating like that and still live. And I say no, no, no. It was God. He gave me a second chance. Because a lot of people, what law enforcement did to them, killed them. They can’t come back and tell their story.”

Palkowitsch talked directly to Baker at the hearing saying, “I hope that today gives you a little bit of closure, but I know for the rest of your life it’s something you’re going to have to deal with. For the rest of my life, it’s something that I’m going to have to live with as well. But from the bottom of my heart, I’m sorry.”

Palkowitsch is scheduled to start his sentence on June 21.

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