Alleged assault of St. Paul Park teen prompts suit against off-duty St. Paul police officer
A St. Paul Park teen's family alleges that an off-duty St. Paul police officer who lives in the city intentionally knocked the teen off his mini bike and verbally assaulted him.
A civil suit has been filed against officer Ronald Himes by Jessica Heroux on behalf of her son Mica Franke, 16, who was involved in a May altercation with Himes and was left scraped, bruised and with a handprint on his chest.
The family is seeking punitive damages in a suit which alleges intentional assault, defamation and negligence.
According to the St. Paul Park police report, Himes called police to report Franke driving on a miniature motorized bike down Pleasant Avenue at excessive speeds. In an attempt to stop Franke, who was 15 at the time, Himes "walked into the road by his mailbox and stuck out his right arm for Mica to stop," the police report states.
Those involved have conflicting stories about what happened next.
Franke told police Himes ran out into the road, hit him in the chest and knocked him off the mini bike. Franke said Himes then stood over him and proceeded to yell at him, the police report said.
The lawsuit claims Franke was not given a warning, such as a hand signal to stop or some other form of body language that would communicate that intent, and he was subjected to a "profanity-laced tirade" from Himes.
While Himes admitted that his hand hit Franke's chest and that the bike then went into a "death wobble thing" before crashing several feet away, Himes said he did not intend to hurt Franke. He reported to police that Franke apologized, picked up his bike and left the scene, a claim which Franke's attorney, Mike Padden, disputes.
The teen was transported by his mother to Woodwinds Hospital, where large cuts and scrapes on his right forearm, a bruise on his right lower abdomen and a red handprint on his right upper chest were documented.
Several witnesses were in the area during the incident and also reported differing accounts of what happened.
A woman said she was walking with her children on Pleasant Avenue and said she felt Franke was traveling at a "dangerous speed," the police report said. Yet another witness, who was on a motorcycle several hundred feet behind Franke when he crashed, said Franke was driving the speed limit when Himes unexpectedly ran at him.
Franke claimed he was traveling 25 miles per hour, but Himes said the speed was closer to 45 miles per hour.
A third witness, who is a neighbor of Himes, said while he did not see the crash occur, he did see what led up to it and the aftermath. Padden said the neighbor is a strong witness for their case. When interviewed, Padden said the neighbor and the man on the motorcycle both expressed concern for Franke, who they felt was being intentionally targeted.
St. Paul Park investigator Kyle Lindquist noted in the police report that Franke had a valid learner's driving permit but did not have any motorcycle endorsements or a moped permit.
Shortly after the incident occurred, the case was forwarded to the Washington County Attorney's Office, as well as City Attorney Jim Sheily's office, for review, but no compelling evidence was found that Himes acted intentionally.
The attorneys offered fifth-degree assault as the most plausible charge but did not file a charge, an inaction Padden said was unacceptable.
"I can tell you that the fact that the officer has not been charged is shocking," Padden said. "I expected that the Washington County attorney would have handled (the case) in a more appropriate fashion."
Heroux echoed Padden's disappointment during a St. Paul Park City Council meeting in August when she asked if more could be done in terms of repercussions against Himes.
Padden said that "had Himes not been law enforcement he would have been arrested on the spot and been criminally charged."
Himes, who is currently assigned in the St. Paul crime lab, has no history of disciplinary action. He could not be reached for comment.
St. Paul Police Sgt. Paul Paulos said no further details regarding the internal investigation were available as it remains open.
Franke is the nephew of St. Paul Park Mayor Keith Franke.
The civil lawsuit against Himes, Padden said, was served in mid August. Padden was contacted by the city of St. Paul shortly after seeking an extension to determine if the department is willing to provide defense for Himes or not. No determination has been made yet.
Padded added he expects to get a response from the city of St. Paul late next week.
Padden is also representing Franke in an unrelated case stemming from a July incident which the teen is being charged with felony first-degree aiding and abetting aggravated robbery; two other teenagers also are being charged. Franke was arraigned last week in that case.