A Minnesota police officer accused of punching a handcuffed 14-year-old girl in the face has been acquitted. A jury in St. Paul took less than 90 minutes Thursday to acquit Michael Soucheray, an eight-year veteran, but he still remains on leave and faces an internal affairs investigation.
Soucheray was charged with fifth-degree assault, a misdemeanor, after he and officer Chris Rhoades were called to a local shelter to help a girl who was said to be suicidal and needed to be rushed to the hospital on December 1. Soucheray was accused of punching the girl after she spat at him.
His attorney, Peter Wold, said afterward that Soucheray didn’t intend to cause harm. Police released squad car video of the incident Thursday, and Chief Todd Axtell said he was ‘deeply disappointed’ by what it showed of Soucheray’s actions.
The 10-minute-video from the squad vehicle was played in the courtroom and showed Soucheray hitting the girl twice after she spat on him. It is unclear what happens immediately after that as the officer then gets in front of the girl and blocks her out of view of the cameras.
Click to WATCH: Minnesota Cop Punches Handcuffed 14-Year-Old Girl in the Face.
The girl can then be heard screaming repeatedly ‘He just punched me!’ During the trial, the young girl was overcome with emotion crying and said that she didn’t want to testify, according to the Star Tribune.
According to the criminal complaint, officers were called to a St. Paul shelter for sexually exploited girls after they received a report that a 14-year-old staying there was suicidal. The officers drove to the shelter, Brittany’s Place, with the intent of rushing the girl to the hospital, according to St. Paul Pioneer Press.
Initially, they had hoped to have her transported to the hospital by ambulance, but instead the officers decided to drive her themselves after she became rowdy and uncooperative. As the officers took her into custody, she refused to go and became agitated, screaming and at one point going limp.
Soucheray eventually pulled her into the squad car and sat her up. At one point, the girl stood up and spit on him. Soucheray then punched the girl twice and grabbed her by the jaw or neck area, the complaint said.
When he grabbed her, he is alleged to have called her ‘a f***ing b***h,’ according to St. Paul Pioneer Press. An internal affairs investigation was opened the day after the incident, and Soucheray was assigned to an administrative role that didn’t include patrol, said police spokesman Steve Linders. The St. Paul chief of police, Todd Axtell, ordered Soucheray to be placed on paid administrative leave back in January, according to the Pioneer Press.
Axtell said in a statement that when incidents occur that do not meet high professional standards, ‘swift and decisive action is taken to hold ourselves accountable.’ Police records show Soucheray has been reprimanded three times previously, including for preventable squad car crashes in 2016 and 2014 and for failing to attend a scheduled court trial in 2012, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported.