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ACLU lawsuit alleges excessive force by Worthington police officer

The ACLU says the victim required five days of intensive care.

The ACLU of Minnesota has filed a lawsuit against the City of Worthington and the city's police department, alleging that excessive force used by some of its officers left a man in intensive care.

A complaint filed on Monday in the District Court of Minnesota also names police chief Troy Appel and Worthington police officer Mark Riley.

It alleges that Riley and his ride-along partner Evan Eggers, described as Riley's "friend and business partner," inflicted serious injuries while arresting Kelvin Francisco Rodriguez in January this year.

Rodriguez suffered four broken ribs, and lacerated his pancreas and liver as a result of the alleged assault, requiring five days in intensive care and multiple surgeries.

"Rodriguez, bleeding internally, repeatedly asked for medical assistance, and his requests were ignored," the ACLU complaint said. "When medical assistance was finally allowed, Rodriguez’s injuries proved so severe, he had to be airlifted to Sanford Medical in Sioux Falls, S.D. He incurred medical expenses close to $150,000."

Rodriguez, a resident of Sheldon, Iowa but an employee at JBS Pork in Worthington, pulled into an auto dealership parking lot upon seeing a police car, with an ACLU press release noting that Rodriguez was "fearful of how police treat immigrants and people of color in Worthington."

The suit claims police had no reason to suspect Rodriguez of wrongdoing, but that they followed him nonetheless, prompting Rodriguez to get out of the vehicle and run.

"When Officer Riley put on his squad lights, Rodriguez immediately returned with his hands up over his head and followed police commands to get down," the press release said. "Riley dropped his weight onto Rodriguez and kneed him in the back while Rodriguez moaned in pain."

The ACLU uploaded a dashcam video containing audio and some scenes of the alleged assault. The assault itself isn't clear, but it can be heard, with Rodriguez moaning in pain while someone says "why you running?"

The lawsuit alleges Rodriguez's Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights were violated.

It's the second time that the ACLU of Minnesota has sued Worthington PD for excessive force, having secured a settlement from the city after an incident in 2017 when a young man was repeatedly punched and kneed by officers while he was seat-belted in his car.

“Immigrants and people of color are too often targeted by police excessive force. We hope this lawsuit makes the city and Worthington police finally recognize and stop the use of excessive force against all people," said ACLU-MN Legal Director Teresa Nelson. 

"Police are sworn to protect and serve people, not harm them, and certainly not to send them to the intensive care unit."

The incident comes amid wider tensions in Worthington between some long-term residents and recent immigrants to the city, with the city featuring in a Washington Post article about this last month.

BMTN has reached out to Worthington PD for comment.

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