A federal court judge on Friday sentenced former officer Brett Palkowitsch to six years after a jury found him guilty of a civil rights violation for beating an unarmed Black man who was mistaken for a suspect nearly five years ago.
In June 2016, Palkowitsch received a call about a fight in St. Paul where an “unidentified Black male with dreadlocks and a white T-shirt” was carrying a gun.
Using this brief description, the officer found Frank Amal Baker, who matched the description, sitting in his car while on his cellphone.
Palkowitsch ordered Baker, 52, to get out of his car as the police dog accompanying the officer got loud, according to a criminal complaint.
The dog was eventually released and mauled Baker to the ground, biting up his leg. The officer kicked Baker in his chest, breaking seven ribs and causing his lungs to collapse, according to a Department of Justice statement.
In 2017, Palkowitsch got fired for use of excessive force, and the dog was suspended for 30 days.
Palkowitsch was indicted in January 2019 on one count of deprivation of rights under color of law, according to court documents. Palkowitsch’s lawyer said that had Baker complied with the police, none of this would have happened.
The former officer was found guilty in November 2019.
“I hope that today gives you a little bit of closure, but I know for the rest of your life it’s something you’re going to have to deal with. For the rest of my life, it’s something that I’m going to have to live with as well. But from the bottom of my heart, I’m sorry,” Palkowitsch said, according to Minnesota Public Radio News.
District Judge Wilhelmina Wright said Palkowitsch had “flagrantly abused” his role as an officer at the hearing.
“Law enforcement officers take an oath to serve and protect the public,” an FBI agent from the Minneapolis Field Office said in the statement. “When an officer betrays that oath and violates a person’s civil rights, that officer must be held accountable. Our community, and our profession, deserve no less.”
Two veteran officers who were at the scene and witnessed Palkowitsch reported him to their supervisor and later testified against him at trial.
Baker told Minnesota Public Radio that he accepted Palkowitsch’s apology, but he said it was not sincere, adding that “He made my life a living hell.”