A now-former peacekeeper has been charged with assault after a video allegedly shows him beating up a man experiencing homelessness outside of a Cub Foods in St. Paul.
Brandon David Miller, 24, of Minneapolis, is charged with fifth-degree assault in connection to an assault on a 31-year-old man on Aug. 12.
According to the criminal complaint, the victim told police he went to the Cub Foods at 1177 Clarence Street in St. Paul to buy food.
The man, who admitted he has been experiencing homelessness, said a man whom he thought was a security guard approached him while he was outside the store. The victim said they argued, the man pushed him against the wall, threw him to the ground and beat him up.
The victim said he lost his phone and sandals during the incident and his shirt was ripped, charges state, noting police observed he had swelling and bruising on his face and head; scratches on his neck; bruising on his arms, chest and back; and had cuts on his legs and elbows, the complaint said.
The manager of Cub Foods told police the store was contracting with a community group to de-escalate upset customers and defuse problems, adding they were only allowed to observe only and not make stops or apprehensions, charges say. The manager said the group is required to report any incident and no such report was made.
An employee at the store said just before the incident, the victim was outside asking people for money. Miller politely asked the victim to leave but the victim grabbed Miller's shirt,
The employee said Miller hit the victim in self defense, the complaint states.
The community group Miller works for, called We Push For Peace, identified Miller to police and said they've never had an incident like this before at any of their locations.
We Push For Peace has condemned Miller's actions and noted he was terminated "20 minutes" after the incident happened, the organization's website says.
Miller told police via telephone that the victim was "yelling and screaming at customers" and he approached him "nicely and asked him to leave," charges state. Miller said the victim pretended to have a gun and attempted to "swing on" and spit at him, so in response he tried to walk the victim to the side of the building, out of sight of children who were nearby.
Miller said the victim grabbed and pulled his hair and ripped off several beads (they were located later by police), so he punched the victim in an effort to escape, the complaint says.
When the victim released his hair, Miller said "I was mad at that point," and admitted he tried to kick the victim, charges say. Miller said another member of the community group then picked up the victim's phone and gave it to the group's leader.
Miller told police, according to charges:
“I did let my emotions get a little of the best of me, but at the same time I am not going to let no one come in my space and harm me when I am already there, respectful to you, and being nice. I don’t care if you’re homeless, or any of that, at that moment my life was on the line. He acted like he had a gun, he acted like he had a weapon and on top of him putting his hands on me.”
Miller said he was hurt during the incident but didn't seek medical attention, charges say. He sent photos to investigators that showed bruising on his arm and a "light scratch" on the other arm.
A bystander recorded and posted video of the incident online, which shows Miller "repeatedly punching" the victim, who is stuck in a corner outside the front of the store, charges state. The video then shows Miller, who is much larger, kicking the victim and flipping him over by the waist.
Then, video shows the victim gathering his belongings as Miller stands over him. Miller then takes the victim by the waist and shirt, and throws him over onto the ground again, the complaint says.
Surveillance video also captured the incident, showing the victim leaving the store at 9:23 p.m. and appeared to remain outside the store, the complaint says. At 9:30 p.m., Miller can be seen outside interacting in some way with the victim before he pushes him from the sidewalk and punches the victim twice. He then uses his body weight to push the victim into the corner.
Miller has a criminal history that includes assaults, threats of violence, and robbery.