Public Safety

Iowa man sues Minnesota police, alleges internal bleeding and broken ribs

Sheldon man wasn't arrested after Worthington incident that put him in hospital

WORTHINGTON, Minn. — An Iowa man who was arrested by Minnesota police in January has sued the city and its department, alleging his encounter with an officer and civilian who was riding along left him with four broken ribs and internal bleeding.

Kelvin Rodriguez, 33, of Sheldon, Iowa, filed his excessive force lawsuit Monday against the city of Worthington. The American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota says after Rodriguez was injured, he begged for medical attention. The lawsuit says the delay in medical treatment was “potentially deadly.”

Rodriguez eventually was rushed to a hospital by helicopter, underwent multiple surgeries and was in intensive care for five days. He suffered internal bleeding from lacerations to his pancreas and liver, and his medical procedures cost nearly $150,000.

“As a human being, I ask that the police be held accountable for not adequately doing their job and respecting me as a human being,” Rodriguez said in a statement. “My wife and children saw me going in and out of life and death.”

The city’s attorney told the Star Tribune they received the lawsuit Tuesday and had no immediate comment.

The lawsuit also names Chief Troy Appel, Officer Mark Riley and civilian Evan Eggers, who was riding along, as defendants. Messages left with Appel, Riley and Eggers were not immediately returned to the Associated Press.

Rodriguez was never charged with a crime stemming from his arrest.

“We hope this lawsuit makes the city and Worthington police finally recognize and stop the use of excessive force against all people,” Teresa Nelson, legal director for the ACLU of Minnesota, said in a statement. “Police are sworn to protect and serve people, not harm them, and certainly not to send them to the intensive care unit.”

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The lawsuit seeks reimbursement for Rodriguez’s medical bills and legal expenses, punitive damages and changes in the police department’s policies involving use of force.

According to the lawsuit, Rodriguez saw a police car and drove into an auto dealership parking lot because he was fearful of how police treat minorities. Riley followed only because Rodriguez left the main road, the lawsuit says. Rodriguez ran as the squad car approached but was returning to his car with his hands above his head when Riley ordered him to the ground.

The lawsuit says Eggers kicked Rodriguez in the back, and Riley dropped his weight on a “prone and defenseless” Rodriguez and kneed him in the back.

Earlier that evening, Rodriguez got into a conflict at a bar and later pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct, but Nelson said Riley and Eggers were unaware of that incident at the time.

This is the second time the ACLU has sued Worthington and Appel for excessive force. In October 2018, Anthony Promvongsa, of Worthington, won a $60,000 settlement after Officer Joe Joswiak dragged him out of his car at gunpoint during a traffic stop in 2016, then punched and kicked him.

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