Minnesota state Rep. John Thompson insisted he was pulled over for “driving while black” and used the incident as a political rallying cry — the only problem is, the officer’s body camera footage tells a different story.
The incident in the early hours of July 4 during a routine traffic stop in St. Paul, when an unnamed police sergeant pulled the Democratic lawmaker over after observing that he had no front license plate and was driving at a high speed, according to Fox News.
The officer found Thompson was using a Wisconsin driver’s license, which had been suspended for failure to pay child support, according to WCCO-TV in Minneapolis.
Thompson, who was elected in November and took office in January, has never had a Minnesota driver’s license, WCCO reported.
To make matters even more questionable, the address Thompson gave when receiving the ticket is not in the district he represents, WCCO reported. Under Minnesota law, the state’s lawmakers are required to “have maintained residence in the district from which the candidate seeks election for 30 days before the general election.”
Still, Johnson decided to milk this otherwise uneventful stop into fuel for the racial-strife furnace during a rally for Philando Castile, a black man who was shot by a police officer during a July 6, 2016, traffic stop. The officer involved was charged with second-degree manslaughter but was acquitted, CNN reported at the time.
“We’re still getting ‘driving while black’ tickets in this state and, in fact, in St. Paul,” Thompson said during a demonstration in front of the governor’s residence on the fifth anniversary of the shooting, according to KSTP-TV.
“So let’s just call it what it is, right…I shouldn’t have to be profiled, so this is ridiculous. Oh, and by the way, it was a sergeant here in St. Paul, by the way. We promote bad behavior.”
It’s too bad for Thompson that Todd Axtell, the St. Paul chief of police, has a backbone. Axtell demanded an apology from the lawmaker and later released the body camera footage to put the lie to rest once and for all.
“These aren’t accusations I take lightly, so I looked into the traffic stop, watched the body camera footage and spoke to the sergeant,” Axtell wrote in a Facebook post published Friday.
“Simply put, the traffic stop was by the books,” he wrote. “What happened afterwards was anything but.
“I’m dismayed and disappointed by the state representative’s response to the stop. Rather than taking responsibility for his own decisions and actions, he attempted to deflect, cast aspersions and deny any wrongdoing.”
The police chief wrote that the department’s officers strive “to be fair, to treat everyone with respect and to lead by example” while fulfilling their duties, drawing a subtle contrast to the way Thompson handled himself.
“We also take responsibility for our actions. When we make mistakes, we own them and try to fix them. It’s what our community expects of its public servants.
“The driver, an elected official who does not dispute driving without a front license plate, owes our sergeant an apology,” Axtell concluded.
But more compelling than Axtell’s words was the footage from the officer’s body camera that was released Tuesday and posted to Facebook by KMSP-TV.
In it, a combative Thompson can be seen making the accusation that his traffic stop was racially motivated despite the fact that the officer clearly stated his two valid reasons for pulling him over — the missing plate on the front of the vehicle required by Minnesota law, and Thompson’s speed.
The video is below. Most of it is made up of the sergeant sitting in the police vehicle waiting for records checks. Thompson’s “driving while black” accusations start when he returns to Thompson’s vehicle at about the 15-minute mark.
“Why in such a hurry?” the officer can be heard asking the lawmaker once the audio is turned, on about 30 seconds into the footage.
“I don’t think I took off like a bat out of hell, I just drove off,” Thompson replied. He also twice mentioned that he was a state representative as the officer returned to his vehicle.
The officer returned sometime later with the citation, and that’s when the Democratic lawmaker hurled his accusations at the officer.
“I’m too old to run from the police, man,” Thompson said to contest the speeding charge.
“You profiled me because you looked me dead in the face and I got a ticket for driving while black,” he insisted. “You pulled me over because you saw a black face in this car, brother. There’s no way in hell I’m taking off with you behind me.
“You looked in this car, you looked in this car and busted a U-turn and got behind my car, and that’s the reason,” he later continued as the officer explained that this was all being caught on camera.
“But what I’m saying is, what you’re doing is wrong, to black men,” Thompson said. “And you need to stop that. Thank you so much, but this ticket means nothing to me,” he said.
“What I’m saying to you is stop racially profiling black men in their cars sir,” he later added. “Stop doing that.”
The footage also demonstrated how the officer calmly explained the offenses and didn’t engage much, despite Thompson’s goading.
Thompson has yet to apologize, but that seems like a remote possibility coming from this Democratic lawmaker who has a history of anti-cop, racially charged rhetoric.
In August of last year, he made headlines leading a demonstration in the Minneapolis suburb of Hugo, outside the home of Bob Kroll, president of the Minneapolis Police Federation, the union representing the city’s embattled police.
“Don’t run now. Don’t run now, racist white people. I’m here!” he shouted at the end of an expletive-laced rant, while women and children in the neighborhood looked on.
There appears to be zero evidence for Thompson’s claim of racial profiling based on the footage and, to his credit, the sergeant showed great restraint when confronted with such accusations. Even his courtesy in apologizing for how long the license check took makes it clear there was no racial animus on his end of the interaction.
Still, this incident reveals how Thompson has no problem assuming the worst about police.
Led by his fellow Democrats who insist that America is systemically racist, every incident is viewed only through that lens — a practice that ultimately makes him and others like him blind to the complex reality of the world.
While it’s political power the left is after with the lie, the real-life consequence is that people like Thompson walk around with a huge chip on their shoulder that creates an impenetrable, iron-clad narrative in their minds.
But any time people believe one single factor can account for all their misfortune — whether it’s race, a disability, a physical attribute, or anything else — it robs them of the chance to take responsibility and change their circumstances.
Thompson probably won’t apologize, an probably won’t stop arguing he was just a victim of another racist cop — but the video evidence doesn’t lie.
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.