Rep. John Thompson denies bullying St. Paul officers, disputing chief's account

State Rep. John Thompson is disputing St. Paul Police's characterization of his actions during a Sunday incident, saying he did not abuse his elected position to get favorable treatment for a family member.

"I certainly would not attempt to misuse, intimidate or bully police officers with my official position. I responded as any concerned father would," Thompson said in a statement, his first public comment about the incident.

Thompson showed up after officers pulled over a woman he identified as his daughter, police said. St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell said the scene turned "ugly, fast" as Thompson screamed at police while making racial accusations, identified himself as a state lawmaker and handed out his business card.

In Tuesday's statement, Thompson blamed the size of the police response for triggering a mental health episode for his daughter. But police treated him with "utmost respect" and did an "exemplary job" deescalating the situation, he said. 

Steve Linders, a police spokesman, said officers tried to stop the woman for erratic driving and expired tabs. Her license was suspended, and officers smelled marijuana coming from the van, which is registered to Thompson and others, Linders said.

As more officers arrived, so did Thompson. To diffuse tensions, police say they decided to seek charges out of custody and let the woman leave with Thompson.

Police are asking the St. Paul city attorney to charge the woman with third-degree DWI-test refusal, a gross misdemeanor. FOX 9 does not name suspects until they are formally charged. Thompson does not face charges, though police say the case is open.

St. Paul city attorney Lyndsey Olson says her office got the case against Thompson's daughter from police Tuesday morning but could not anticipate when a charging decision would be made.

"Our office will review the reports and the evidence associated with the case before making any charging decisions," Olson said.

Axtell has called on Thompson to request officers' body camera video be made public. State law limits the release of body camera video to certain circumstances, including to "dispel rumor or unrest," or if the subject of the video requests its release. 

The Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association also called on Thompson to let the body camera video be released.

Thompson's legislative aide did not say whether the first-term lawmaker would make that request. 

House Speaker Melissa Hortman said she did not know of any members planning to file an ethics complaint against Thompson. She declined to say whether one would be appropriate, given Axtell's allegation that Thompson abused his elected position.

"It’s very early in this situation," Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park, told reporters. "In past situations when complaints go to the ethics committee or in the rare cases when I’ve taken action, there’s been a lot more factual development and the proceedings in criminal court have concluded.

"All’s I know so far is that Chief Axtell has a Facebook post and Rep. Thompson has a response."

Last summer, St. Paul Police released video of another incident involving Thompson. In that case, the lawmaker made similar allegations of racism after St. Paul officers pulled him over, ultimately finding that Thompson had a Wisconsin driver's license. That led to the discovery of the past domestic violence allegations against Thompson.

Thompson's brief career in the state Legislature has featured numerous controversies. He campaigns as a Democrat but caucuses independently after the House DFL removed him when past domestic violence allegations - for which Thompson was never charged - came to light last summer.

On March 26, Thompson lost the DFL endorsement in his House district on St. Paul's east side to Liz Lee. In a Facebook post Monday, Thompson said he was running for re-election.