A St. Paul police officer has been charged with assault after he reportedly punched a handcuffed 14-year-old girl in the face while attempting to get her into his squad car.
Officer Michael Soucheray, 38, has been placed on paid administrative leave, according to the St. Paul Police Department. The department also confirmed they are conducting their own internal affairs investigation.
“The St. Paul Police Department is committed to serving the City of St. Paul with the highest levels of professionalism” Chief Todd Axtell said in a statement. “When incidents occur that do not meet those standards, swift and decisive action is taken to hold ourselves accountable.”
Soucheray’s attorney, Peter Wold, said his client acted in self-defense, after a long struggle with the teen.
“He did what he needed to do to protect himself and his partner,” said Wold. “I’ve seen the booking photo. There are no injuries on her of any type. No marks, no bruises, no split lips. He did minimally what he needed to do to keep her from doing that again.”
According to a criminal complaint, Soucheray and his partner were called to youth shelter Brittany’s Place on December 1, 2016. Dispatch reported an agitated and possibly suicidal teenager who was refusing to go with an ambulance.
Upon arrival at the shelter on East 7th Street, the officers handcuffed the teen and escorted her to the squad car. She refused to get in, going limp to try and avoid being transported.
When the pair finally got her in the squad car, Soucheray was attempting to fasten the woman’s seatbelt when she spit in his face.
Soucheray then punched her twice in the face with a closed first, grabbed her by the jaw area and called her an expletive.
CEO And President of 180 Degrees, the organization that operates Brittany’s Place, said the department responded immediately to their concerns over Soucheray’s behavior, sending an investigator over the very next day.
“It was an unfortunate incident but I don’t think in anyway it characterizes the St. Paul Police Department,” said 180 Degrees CEO Dan Pfarr. “I can’t say enough about how well this was handled by Chief Axtell.”
St. Paul police spokesperson Steve Linders told Fox 9 the St. Paul Police Department referred the case to the Dakota County Attorney’s office after reviewing Soucheray's use of force in the incident. Soucheray has had four prior complaints filed against him.
Soucheray has been charged with fifth degree misdemeanor assault.