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Duluth police officer found not guilty of assault, disorderly conduct

A jury in Pine County has found former active-duty Duluth police officer Richard Jouppi not guilty on charges of assault and disorderly conduct.

Jouppi, 36, faced fifth-degree assault and disorderly conduct charges after throwing five punches at 50-year-old Anthony Jon Jackson and pulling him to the ground over the back of his wheelchair in a September 2012 incident at the Duluth Detoxification Center.

Closing arguments took place on Friday and the jury went into deliberations in the late afternoon before returning the verdict about three hours later.

Outside the courtroom after the verdict, an exhausted-looking Jouppi declined to discuss the case

"We just want to go home," Jouppi said. "It's been a long five days. I miss my family."

Shawn Reed, who served as special prosecutor in the case, declined to comment, deferring to the city. Duluth Police Chief Gordon Ramsay posted the following statement on Facebook just before 10 p.m.:

"While I respect the judicial process I am very disappointed by the verdict in the Richard Jouppi case. His actions on September 21, 2012 were not consistent with department training or policy, bringing discredit to our department and detracting from the excellent work our women and men do on a daily basis. As I said previously, we will do everything we can legally to ensure he never works for our department again."

Jouppi took the stand in his own defense Thursday, and testified that he acted in self-defense after receiving an open-hand slap to the face from Jackson.

"I was experiencing a wide range of emotions -- a lot of it being fear, obviously," Jouppi testified. "I don't know if he wants to take my gun and shoot me. All I know is that he has attacked me. It's a tough position to be in as a police officer because I have to go home. I have my wife and kids at home."

The prosecution rested its case earlier Thursday, calling Duluth police Sgt. Robert Shene, a use of force expert. Shene, who provided use of force training to Jouppi, testified that he reviewed the footage of the alleged assault and concluded that Jouppi used excessive force in repeatedly striking Jackson and taking him down to the ground.

Shene said he concluded that Jouppi's first punch landed square in the face of Jackson, and a second and third punch could be excused, he said, because it takes time for the officer to re-examine the scene and determine if he has gained control of the situation. However, Jouppi took a full step after the third punch in order to throw two more punches, only one of which landed, and recklessly throw Jackson to the ground, Shene said.

During his testimony, Jouppi contended that only two of the five punches he threw landed on target -- Jackson's face -- making the others ineffective. Jouppi said he continued to throw punches because he saw Jackson's arms moving in what he perceived to be an offensive position.

"I believed Jackson was completely a threat to me after he assaulted me," Jouppi testified.

As for the takedown, Jouppi said he attempted to pull Jackson down and twist him onto his stomach -- the standard position for handcuffing a suspect. He said he believes Jackson landed on his shoulder and not his back or head.

Jouppi also blamed his partner, police officer Amber Peterson, who he said backed up from the scene and did not attempt to assist in subduing Jackson.

Ramsay has said his department has done everything in its power to ensure that Jouppi never works on the force again.

Ramsay told the News Tribune recently that under Minnesota law he is unable to comment on Jouppi's job status until final disposition of discipline in the grievance process, but he confirmed that Jouppi currently is not being paid by the department.