Mara H. Gottfried, Pioneer Press, St. Paul, Minn. –
A man seen on video being kicked by a St. Paul police officer while lying on the ground was charged Thursday, Aug. 30, in the case for which police were arresting him.
The Ramsey County attorney’s office charged Eric Ronnell Hightower, 30, of St. Paul with aggravated stalking, terroristic threats and fourth-degree criminal damage to property.
According to the criminal complaint:
A 20-year-old woman called 911 at 5:58 p.m. Tuesday and reported that her ex-boyfriend, Hightower, had “repeatedly called, harassed and threatened” her over the last few days.
She said officers were recently sent to her home after Hightower threatened to break all her windows; one was found to be broken.
On Tuesday, the woman reported that Hightower had called a few minutes before and threatened to kill her. She said Hightower was the father of a baby she’d given birth to this summer, but the baby had died within hours of birth.
“She said Hightower has been hostile and violent to her ever since the baby died,” according to the complaint. She said she moved to a new address to get away from him, but Hightower found her and had been harassing her since.
The woman “expressed extreme fear of Hightower and said she believes Hightower will carry out his threats,” the complaint said. An officer heard voicemail messages from Hightower, on the woman’s phone, in which he shouted and swore.
In a Monday message, Hightower said, “You’re about to get your mother (expletive) head
blew the (expletive) off!” the complaint said.
Police arrested Hightower near Lewis Park in the city’s North End about 6 p.m. Tuesday. In a video, taken by a friend and posted Wednesday on YouTube, an officer is seen kicking Hightower while he is on the ground.
The officer, identified by police as Jesse Zilge, and another officer are also seen slamming Hightower into a squad-car hood. Hightower, who said he was not resisting arrest, said police also repeatedly sprayed a chemical irritant
at him and pulled his hair.
Police Chief Thomas Smith said Wednesday that he’d placed Zilge on paid administrative leave during an internal affairs investigation.
Hightower denied the allegations against him, regarding his former girlfriend, in a Wednesday jailhouse interview with the Pioneer Press.