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Published October 16, 2012, 02:26 PM

Duluth Police Officer Who Assaulted Man at Detox Center Dismissed From Force

Duluth Police Chief Gordon Ramsay said his department has done everything in its power to keep Richard Jouppi from ever again working as a police officer in the city.

By: Mark Stodghill, Forum Communications

Duluth Police Chief Gordon Ramsay said his department has done everything in its power to keep Richard Jouppi from ever again working as a police officer in the city.

Officer Jouppi, 35, was videotaped swinging and hitting a presumably intoxicated man in a wheelchair at the Duluth Detoxification Center on Sept. 21. He was charged with fifth-degree assault and disorderly conduct in connection with the incident.

Ramsay, surrounded by the 11 officers who make up his command staff, held a news conference at police headquarters Monday to inform the public of his department’s response to the “use of force” incident. Ramsay said the internal investigation of Jouppi’s actions has been completed, but data practice law and the police union contract prohibited him from talking about any specific conclusions and discipline until final disposition of discipline, when he said the discipline will become public.

The police chief said he had watched the video of the incident at least 40 times and had read and re-read all of the interviews and reports associated with the case.

“I, along with the department leaders as well as many of our officers, have expressed how deeply troubled they are by his actions,” Ramsay said of Jouppi. “I assure you the DPD has done everything in its power legally so that Officer Richard Jouppi will never work for the city of Duluth Police Department again. The Duluth Police Department believes community relationships are of the utmost importance. We will continue to work with the Native American community to heal and rebuild the fragile balance of trust.”

Neither Jouppi nor his attorney could be reached for comment Monday.

Under his police union contract, Jouppi has 21 days to file a grievance regarding the discipline. If he does so, an arbitration process will begin.

Officer Tom Maida, president of the Duluth Police Union, Local 807, which represents the officers, investigators and sergeants in the department, said that the union is monitoring the case.

“We’re in consult with our attorney to ensure that Officer Jouppi receives the proper due process and that this incident receives the review that it needs and deserves,” Maida said Monday.

The first count of the criminal complaint against Jouppi — fifth-degree assault — states that Jouppi committed an act with intent to cause fear in another of immediate bodily harm or death or intentionally inflicted or attempted to inflict bodily harm upon another.

The disorderly count states that Jouppi, while in a public or private place, knowing, or having reasonable grounds to know that it will, or will tend to, alarm, anger or disturb others or provoke an assault or breach of the peace, engaged in brawling or fighting; or engaged in offensive, obscene, abusive, boisterous, or noisy conduct, or in offensive, obscene or abusive language tending to reasonably arouse alarm, anger or resentment in others.

Both crimes are misdemeanors, each punishable by a maximum penalty of 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Jouppi, a Duluth Central graduate, served with the Omaha (Neb.) Police Department from November 2001 to February 2008, and he worked for the St. Paul Police Department from March 2008 to January 2010. He joined the Duluth force in January 2010.

The Duluth department had placed Jouppi on administrative leave pending the outcome of an internal investigation. Jouppi is accused of assaulting Anthony Jon Jackson, 50, a resident of the San Marco Apartments in downtown Duluth. The San Marco offers permanent housing for chemically dependent individuals and for people who have experienced chronic homelessness. Police reports indicate that Jackson had assaulted two people at San Marco that day.

Jouppi and another officer were initially dispatched to the apartments at 10:09 p.m. Sept. 21. A staff member at San Marco reported to police that Jackson had been continually assaultive and violent and his behavior had escalated over the prior month. Jackson assaulted two fellow residents that day and then trashed his room, according to police reports.

About 10:50 p.m., a surveillance video at the Detoxification Center appears to show Jackson swiping his hand into Jouppi’s face and the officer responding with several punches before tipping the wheelchair over with Jackson in it. Jouppi wore a back brace.

The criminal complaint against Jouppi said he threw five closed-fist punches to Jackson’s head and face.

Personnel records indicate that on March 12, he and the city reached a “Final and Last Chance Agreement” in which he signed a document that included the language: “Any future acts or omissions which violate public trust and/or violate (police policy) will be deemed an act of gross insubordination justifying termination.”

According to records in that case, Jouppi was disciplined for admitting to superiors that he had provided information to a friend — who was a suspect in a sex assault — about what evidence police would need to convict him.

The disciplinary document states that Jouppi’s actions in that case diminished the ability of the Police Department to potentially gather evidence critical to the investigation and prosecution of the suspect.

Jouppi was one of four Omaha police officers honored for bravery and lifesaving in 2005 for risking their lives to rescue a family from a burning home. He has not received any honors or awards while a Duluth officer.