Civil Liberties

St. Paul Police: Winning the War on Drugs One Head Stomp at a Time

St. Paul, Minnesota City Council members settled a police brutality lawsuit for $400,000 last week.


St. Paul, Minnesota City Council members settled a police brutality lawsuit for $400,000 last week.

In 2010, Matthew Yunker and two other officers repeatedly kicked a zip-tied Larelle Steward in the head, breaking his nose as he tried to explain that his mother was physically unable to drop to the floor of their apartment with the requisite speed.

Officers then fired a flash-bang grenade at Daniela Hobbs, causing third-degree burns and "serious and permanent injuries," according to a St. Paul City Attorney.

Via the St. Paul Pioneer Press:

Officer Matthew Yunker had received information from a confidential informant that another man…was selling crack cocaine from an apartment in the 600 block of North Snelling Avenue, according to his application for a search warrant, which a judge granted.

…Steward and Hobbs lived in the apartment, above a business, and saw police arrive via a security camera the business owner had installed. They were the only ones home. Steward opened the door when they knocked. Police yelled for them to "get on the ground."

…Hobbs is 5 feet 3 inches tall, has diabetes and back problems and, at the time of the police encounter, "was visibly disabled due to a recent neck surgery," the complaint said.

…Police shot a "flash-bang" grenade at Hobbs, who was "prone/face down" at that point, the complaint said. It exploded, setting Hobbs on fire and causing third-degree burns. Hobbs was burned on her right leg from ankle to mid-thigh, her left inner thigh, and the bottoms of her feet.

A paramedic treated Hobbs and inquired about other injured people. Police "falsely informed the medic that no other medical treatment was needed," the complaint said.

Police instructed Steward to clean up his face, dropped him off at Regions Hospital's emergency room and confiscated the pillowcase they'd used to cover his bloodied face.

Officers found no cocaine in their search of the apartment. 

Steward and Hobbs sued the city of St. Paul, Yunker and officers "John Doe," whose names weren't known. Both sides later agreed to dismiss Yunker and name only the city of St. Paul as a defendant.

Yunker, a St. Paul officer since 2000, was assigned to the Western District FORCE unit at the time he obtained the warrant and is now a canine officer.

Police did find a small amount of marijuana and some firearms at the apartment. City officials deny any wrongdoing.