Worthington settles police brutality lawsuit for $590,000, agrees to reforms

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Kelvin Francisco Rodriguez, who spent five days in the ICU after being arrested.

The City of Worthington and its police department have settled a police brutality lawsuit for $590,000. 

The ACLU of Minnesota filed the lawsuit last year on behalf of Kelvin Francisco Rodriguez, saying police used excessive force against him and delayed his medical treatment in the January 2019 incident. 

According to the ACLU, Rodriguez pulled over into a car dealership after seeing a police car. Officer Mark Riley put on his squad lights and Rodriguez walked to him with his hands up. Officer Riley then dropped his weight onto Rodriguez and kneed him in the back, breaking four of his ribs and piercing his liver and pancreas.

Rodriguez's injuries were so severe he had to spend five days in the intensive care unit, the ACLU said. 

As part of the settlement agreement, which U.S. District Court of Minnesota Chief Judge John Tunheim on Monday signed off on, the city has also agreed to police reforms, the ACLU says. Among them: include police officer aggression and resistance reports in cases; prohibit warrior training; require Fair and Impartial Policing Training; and offer officers incentives to learn a second language. 

“This agreement holds the police accountable for not doing their job and not respecting me as a human being,” Rodriguez said in a statement. “It’s good for the police to know they can’t violate other people’s rights the way police did with me. I’m proud as a Latino and immigrant of my role in this case, and I want other people to know they can do the same thing I did.” 

This is the second police brutality lawsuit the city has settled in as many years, the ACLU says. 

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“It is disgraceful that the ACLU of Minnesota has had to sue Worthington twice now to stop its law enforcement officials from targeting and brutalizing immigrants and people of color,” said ACLU-MN staff attorney Ian Bratlie. “We hope this settlement ensures that Worthington police will end their excessive use of force and instead work to protect and serve everyone.”

The ACLU sued Worthington after police "repeatedly punched and kneed" a man who was still in his car with his seat belt on. In October 2018, the ACLU reached a settlement with the city and the Buffalo Ridge Drug Task Force, which agreed to reform their use of force.

Worthington is located in Nobles County in southwestern Minnesota. In a statement to Bring Me The News, the city said:

“The City of Worthington and the League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust agreed to settle the civil rights lawsuit brought by Kelvin Rodriguez and his attorneys for $590,000 and the dismissal of all claims. This settlement amount includes all monetary damages, medical expenses and Rodriguez’s attorney’s fees. There is no admission of any liability by the city and all claims against the individual defendants, Troy Appel, Mark Riley, and Evan Eggers, were separately and voluntarily dismissed. As part of the settlement agreement, and recognizing the need to continue to improve upon relationships within the community, the City of Worthington Police Department is also expanding its fair and impartial policing training as well as foreign language training.”

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