A freshman legislator in Minnesota is facing questions about his eligibility to serve after a traffic stop last week led him to accuse the St. Paul police of racial profiling. Rep. John Thompson leveled the accusation during a rally outside the governor’s mansion in honor of Philado Castile, a concealed carry holder who was shot and killed by police five years ago in the Minneapolis-St. Paul suburb of St. Anthony, Minnesota.
“We’re still getting ‘driving while Black’ tickets in this state and in fact in St. Paul,” Thompson said. “So let’s just call it what it is, right…I shouldn’t have to be profiled, so this is ridiculous. Oh, and by the way, it was a sergeant here in St. Paul by the way. We promote bad behavior.”
St. Paul police chief Todd Axtell disputes Thompson’s version of events, posting on Facebook on Friday that he’s seen the body cam footage from the sergeant and believes that the stop “had nothing to do with the driver’s race.”
“Simply put, the traffic stop was by the books,” Axtell continued. “What happened afterwards was anything but, I’m dismayed and disappointed by the state representative’s response to the stop. Rather than taking responsibility for his own decisions and actions, he attempted to deflect, cast aspersions and deny any wrongdoing.”
Axtell concluded by asking for an apology. “The driver, an elected official who does not dispute driving without a front license plate, owes our sergeant an apology.”
The dispute over the traffic stop could likely be cleared up with the release of the body cam footage, but for whatever reason Thompson has refused to allow police to release the video of the traffic stop. Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association executive director Brian Peters calls Thompson’s blocking of the release of the video “hypocritical and irresponsible,” given that the Democrat legislator spent much of the last session pushing for legislation that would compel the “rapid release” of body cam video in police stops.
The controversy has also caused some bigger problems for Thompson, with Minneapolis station KSTP-TV reporting that, despite being elected to a seat in the Minnesota state legislature last year, Thompson has been driving on a Wisconsin driver’s license. In fact, he renewed his Wisconsin license last November, the same month he won election to the Minnesota state House of Representatives.
The Minnesota Department of Public Safety says Thompson has never had a Minnesota driver’s license. From May 2019 until this week his Minnesota “driving privileges” were suspended due to unpaid child support. Public safety officials said that issue was taken care of this week and he is now eligible to get a Minnesota driver’s license.
Without any response from Thompson, it’s difficult to know whether he claims his residency in Minnesota or Wisconsin.
The Minnesota Secretary of State provided 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS with a copy of Thompson’s affidavit of candidacy he filed when he ran for office in 2020. He was allowed to only list a P.O. box in St. Paul after checking a box that allows a residence to be classified as private data. A candidate who checks that box certifies “a police report has been submitted or I have an order for protections for my (or my family’s safety, or my address is otherwise private by Minnesota law.”
A spokeswoman for the Minnesota Secretary of State, Risikat Adesaogun, told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS about Thompson’s private address request, “I won’t say it never happens, but it’s not very common practice.”
It’s unclear what, if any, impact this will have on Thompson’s ability to continue serving in the Minnesota Legislature without more clarity on his residency.
It’s going to be very interesting to see what happens next. Will the Democrats who control the state House actively take an interest in getting to the bottom of the questions about Thompson’s eligibility to serve, or will they try to brush the controversy aside? My guess is that the local media and the state’s GOP will end up taking the lead into digging into Thompson’s residency issues, with the Democrats doing their best to circle the wagons around their controversial colleague. It’s likely that none of this would have come to light had Thompson not accused the St. Paul police sergeant of racial profiling, but thanks to his comments, the first-term legislature is in for a long, hot, summer and plenty of grilling.. just not the barbecue kind.