St. Paul Police Department has released video evidence that casts severe doubt on a Minnesota lawmaker’s claim that he was charged for “driving while black.” The department is now demanding an apology.
Bodycam footage obtained by Bring Me the News shows a traffic duty officer pulling over and questioning state Rep. John Thompson (Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party) at 1:20 a.m. on July 4.
“Why [were you] in such a hurry?” the officer can be heard saying.
Thompson does not respond in a very respectful tone, and even starts an argument with the policeman.
“I do not think I took off like a bat out of hell,” the lawmaker said. “I just drove off, I am actually a current state representative in this district right here, man–if that makes any difference.”
The officer asks for his driver’s license and takes it back to the squad car to verify Thompson’s identity. He returns after 14 minutes and informs the lawmaker he operated a motor vehicle without a valid license.
“Here is your license and my card,” the officer said. “You are suspended in Minnesota.”
However, Thompson continues to argue with the policeman and denies his Wisconsin license is suspended.
“That is what the computer says,” the officer said. “If it is wrong, you will have to deal with [the] Department of Vehicle Services.”
The lawmaker then alleges he was racially profiled, and demands to know why he was stopped.
“No [it was due to your] front plate, and the way you took off from the light back there,” the policeman said.
Thompson continues to accuse the officer of being prejudiced against people belonging to a different race.
“I am too old to run from the police, man,” the lawmaker said. “You profiled me because you looked me dead in the fact, and I got a ticket for driving while black.”
“You pulled me over because you saw a black face in this car, brother,” he added. “You looked in this car and busted a U-turn and got behind my car, and that is the reason.”
At this point the officer informs the driver he is recording everything “on camera.”
The lawmaker acknowledges he is being recorded and continues to argue why he thinks he was racially profiled.
“I know but what you are doing is wrong to black men, and you need to stop that,” he said.
St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell categorically rejected any suggestion the officer acted above the law.
“Simply put, the traffic stop was by the book,” Axtell said according to KSTP-TV. “What happened afterward was anything but.
The police chief regretted Thompson did not take responsibility for his actions, and even resorted to making unsubstantiated claims.
“I am dismayed and disappointed by the state representative’s response to the stop,” he said. “Rather than taking responsibility for his own decisions and actions, he attempted to deflect, cast aspersions, and deny any wrongdoing.”
After the video was made public, the lawmaker had surprisingly little to say and did not respond to the broadcaster’s interview requests.
Thompson has never held a driver’s license in Minnesota, and his ‘driving privileges’ were suspended in 2019 due to allegedly overdue child support payments.
He agreed to release the video in a statement released on July 12. He claimed his license was reinstated after he resolved the child support matter, and also plans to obtain a Minnesota driver’s license according to KSTP-TV.
Former Minnesota Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer (R) previously questioned DFL Secretary of State Steve Simon about exactly how he intends to verify Thompson’s residency.
“It is your office’s responsibility to implement the election laws passed by the legislature and to provide trust, clarity, and security in the process,” she said in a statement. “Answering these questions in a timely manner will help us all better understand the process that goes into residency verification.”
The Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association separately contacted Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel (R) to find out how Thompson received a driver’s license in the Badger State.
“State Rep. John Thompson deceived our citizens, his constituents, your citizens, and your state,” the association said according to the broadcaster. “He defrauded Wisconsin, claiming to be a resident in order to obtain a fraudulent driver’s license. In doing so, he affirmed–under penalty of perjury–that he is a Wisconsin resident.”
State House Speaker Melissa Hortman (DFL) revealed nobody had complained about Thompson at the time of publication.
“The Minnesota House of Representatives takes allegations of member misconduct seriously,” she said. “No House members have filed an ethics complaint, regarding the allegations made against Rep. Thompson.”