ST. PAUL, Minnesota (AP) — A Minnesota lawmaker who has long been a critic of police defended his behavior during a traffic stop for his adult daughter Tuesday that turned into a verbal confrontation between him and officers.
Police said Rep. John Thompson of St. Paul arrived Sunday in a different car after they pulled over his daughter for an expired driver’s license and for she left the lane.
St. Pavel Police Chief Todd Axtell made the announcement in a Facebook post. On Monday, Thompson “jumped out and immediately began interfering, yelling and asking questions about the traffic stop and calling himself” the state legislator.
The chief accused the deputy of trying to “intimidate and intimidate the police” who were just doing their job. He said it was an “absolute disgrace” that his offices should “tolerate unlawful claims of racism that John Thompson is still in the Legislative Assembly.”
In a statement Tuesday, Thompson, who is black and has previously accused police of racially profiling drivers, including himself, denied abuse of his position and praised the police.
“As an elected official, I certainly would not try to abuse, intimidate or intimidate police officers with my position,” Thompson said. “I reacted the way any worried father would have, coming to a place of chaos to help deal with my frightened daughter who was having a verifiable mental health episode.”
Thompson said the episode was prompted by the “large presence” of the St. Paul police. But he also said officers at the scene treated him with “the utmost respect” and did an “exemplary job” of de-escalating the situation.
House of Representatives Democrats expelled Thompson from his collection last fall amid old allegations of domestic violence and questions about whether he actually lived in his East Side neighborhood. Those accusations what he deniedappeared after Thompson accused a St. Paul officer of racially profiling him during a traffic stop when he was ticketed for driving with a suspended Wisconsin license.
Thompson rejected calls at the time from leading Democrats, including Gov. Tim Walz, that he is stepping down and remaining in office as an independent. In March, he lost a Democratic Party bid in his constituency to former Liz Lee, former US Senator Amy Klobuchar and then-US Rep. Keith Ellison, but said he was running for re-election anyway.
Thompson became an activist after his friend Philando Castile was killed by a suburban police officer during a traffic stop in 2016. As a legislator, he advocated a ban on prepositional stops for minor offenses and other police accountability measures, including a bill to speed up the release of police bodycam videos.
The Minnesota Police and Enforcement Association urged Thompson to allow police to release body-cam footage of Sunday’s incident, which requires his consent under current state law.
Brian Peters, the association’s chief executive, said in a letter to Thompson on Tuesday that the release would support his explanation of what happened.
“Another benefit would be highlighting the effectiveness of St. Paul Police officers in de-escalating the mental health situation, as you also noted in your statement,” Peters wrote.
Democratic Speaker of the House Melissa Hortman of Brooklyn Park on Tuesday declined to comment on whether the incident warranted an ethical investigation. She told reporters that it would be for the House Ethics Committee to decide, but she had not heard of anyone planning to file a complaint.
Associated Press reporter Mohamed Ibrahim contributed to the story. Ibrahim is a member of the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a non-profit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on hidden issues.