St. Paul, MN – St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell publicly denounced State Representative John Thompson (DFL-Minnesota) for allegedly lying about being racially profiled during a traffic stop on Independence Day.
Chief Axtell called Thompson out in a Facebook post on July 9, demanding he apologize to the sergeant who cited him for driving while suspended.
He said the encounter between the St. Paul police sergeant and Thompson occurred on July 4, while the sergeant was working a “Toward Zero Deaths” traffic safety detail.
The grant-funded initiative, which is administered by the state, is aimed at ensuring compliance with traffic laws, the chief noted.
During the detail, the sergeant spotted a vehicle being operated without a front license plate and stopped the driver, who was identified as Thompson.
According to police, Thompson identified himself as a state lawmaker during the stop and gave the sergeant a driver’s license issued out of Wisconsin, WCCO reported.
He also accused the sergeant of racially profiling him, according to the Twin Cities Pioneer Press.
“The sergeant reiterated that he’d been stopped because the vehicle he was driving did not have a front license plate, which is required by state law,” St. Paul Police Department spokesperson Steve Linders told the paper.
Thompson ended up being cited for driving on a suspended Minnesota license, WCCO reported.
The state representative mentioned the stop during a rally honoring Philando Castile that took place outside the governor’s office on July 6, KSTP reported.
“We’re still getting ‘driving while black’ tickets in this state and in fact in St. Paul,” Thompson told the crowd during the gathering. “So, let’s just call it what it is, right.”
“I shouldn’t have to be profiled, so this is ridiculous,” he declared. “Oh, and by the way, it was a sergeant here in St. Paul by the way. We promote bad behavior.”
Chief Axtell said he was “shocked” to learn that Thompson had accused the sergeant of “making the stop based on race.”
He immediately took action.
“These aren’t accusations I take lightly, so I looked into the traffic stop, watched the body worn camera footage and spoke to the sergeant,” the chief wrote in the Facebook post.
Chief Axtell concluded Thompson’s allegations were utterly false.
“This stop, made at about 1:20 in the morning, had absolutely nothing to do with the driver’s race. What it did involve was a public servant doing what the community asks of him,” the chief wrote. “Simply put, the traffic stop was by the books. What happened afterwards was anything but.”
Chief Axtell said he is “dismayed and disappointed” by how Thompson handled the incident.
“Rather than taking responsibility for his own decisions and actions, he attempted to deflect, cast aspersions and deny any wrongdoing,” he continued.
Now, he needs to own up to what took place, the chief said of the state politician.
“At the Saint Paul Police Department, we work hard to be fair, to treat everyone with respect and to lead by example. We also take responsibility for our actions. When we make mistakes, we own them and try to fix them. It’s what our community expects of its public servants,” Chief Axtell wrote.
“The driver, an elected official who does not dispute driving without a front license plate, owes our sergeant an apology,” he concluded.
According to Minnesota Department of Public Safety spokesperson Doug Neville, Thompson’s license was revoked in April of 2019 due to his failure to pay child support, WCCO reported.
On July 7, several days after receiving the citation, Thompson resolved the child support issue and his license was reinstated, Neville said.
Thompson said he has lived in Minnesota for nearly 20 years, but that he never switched his driver’s license from Wisconsin to Minnesota, the Twin Cities Pioneer Press reported.
Under Minnesota law, new residents who want to drive are required to apply for a Minnesota driver’s license within 60 days of becoming a Minnesota resident.
Although he violated the law and never obtained a license in Minnesota, the state is still able to suspend Minnesota driver’s license privileges, the Twin Cities Pioneer Press reported.
Thompson’s court order requiring him to pay child support was originally issued in 2010.
St. Paul police said they are prohibited by law from releasing bodycam footage of the stop before the case is resolved unless Thompson agrees to have it released, which he has refused to allow, WCCO reported.
“Rep. Thompson’s signature issue at the state legislature was advocating for rapid release of police officers’ body camera footage,” Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association Executive Director Brian Peters told WCCO. “Now he’s blocking the public release of the body camera footage of his own incident with law enforcement this past week.”
“Constituents have the right to see how their legislator conducted himself, particularly when he made such strong claims about what happened during the traffic stop,” Peters said.
During a Black Lives Matter rally held outside Minnesota Police Federation President Bob Kroll’s Hugo home in August of 2020, the aspiring politician grabbed a microphone and went on a profanity-laced tirade while encouraging the crowd to make people “uncomfortable,” the Post Millennial reported.
“Don’t run now, don’t run now racist white people,” he taunted, before bashing an effigy of Chief Kroll’s wife.