FARGO — Police have released squad car footage of a traffic stop that resulted in the use of force against a driver who's pleaded not guilty to misdemeanor charges of fleeing, preventing arrest and marijuana possession.
Fargo police tried to pull over 26-year-old Abraham Nyei near his apartment in the 4300 block of Ninth Avenue Circle South. An officer initiated the traffic stop around 1 a.m. Monday, July 15, after Nyei allegedly ran a red light, police said.
The Fargo Police Department posted an edited video on its Facebook page at 10:15 p.m. Tuesday that includes footage captured by squad car cameras on a dashboard and in a back seat, along with commentary from police spokeswoman Jessica Schindeldecker and Deputy Chief Ross Renner about what happened and why.
Police first posted about the traffic stop on Facebook Monday morning, and The Forum published online an initial story about the stop that morning. The Forum later interviewed Nyei and published another story Tuesday afternoon that contained his version of events. The police department's release of the edited video was in response to information Nyei told The Forum.
"Earlier this afternoon, a local media outlet published a story regarding an incident that occurred yesterday, and we're looking to clear up some misinformation that is in that article or behind the incident," Schindeldecker said at the start of the 11-minute video.
The Forum requested squad car video of the incident around noon on Monday, and police initially said it would be made available once the case is closed. After the edited video was shared on Facebook, Todd told The Forum on Wednesday he had no objection to releasing all videos of the incident. But as of publication time Wednesday, the newspaper had not received those videos.
In the edited video, Renner said police got into a confrontation with Nyei. "It's important that we look at these things in the aspect of appropriate and necessary force that is used," Renner said.
The video shows Officer Heidi Witzel's squad car lights activated when Nyei's car pulled into the parking lot behind his apartment. Witzel followed Nyei around the building while lights were still flashing.
"It's clear at this point that it would be very difficult for that individual operating that vehicle not to recognize that there's a fully marked police car behind them," Renner said.
Nyei told The Forum he did not see the police lights or hear sirens until he started trying to parallel park on the street by his home. Nyei, a black man, said police racially profiled him and that his rights were violated. He repeatedly denied fleeing from police and resisting arrest. As for the marijuana possession, he maintained there was none on him or in his car.
The dash-cam video from the squad car shows that once Nyei was removed from his car, an officer noted the smell of marijuana. An officer later found a "small plastic bag of marijuana," according to court documents.
As Nyei was trying to parallel park, his vehicle began to back up toward the parked squad car behind him.
"Many times individuals that act like that are intoxicated or under the influence of some kind of drug that they don't understand what they are doing," Renner said during the video commentary.
"I'm trying to park .... What's wrong?" Nyei is heard saying to police in the dash-cam video.
Officers continued ordering Nyei to exit the vehicle. "If you don't get out, I'm breaking your window right now," an officer told Nyei.
Nyei told police there were no weapons in his car and asked what he was being arrested for. Officer Witzel said he was not being arrested, and Nyei started backing up the vehicle with the officers standing outside his car window, which they then broke.
The rest of the confrontation is out of view of the dash cam, but audio reveals sounds of a scuffle between officers and Nyei.
The Facebook video then switches to back-seat squad car video that shows Nyei refusing to get into the squad car. The video shows Nyei swearing and yelling as officers try to put him into the back of the squad car.
According to court documents, Nyei shoved himself into Officer Paul Iverson, and the two tripped on the curb. Nyei hit his face on a light pole, court documents said. In the video, Nyei is heard repeatedly screaming.
Paramedics arrived to treat Nyei, and he asked that an ambulance take him to Sanford Medical Center where he said doctors did an X-ray and told him his nose was broken.
As a result of the incident, Officer Paul Nelson received cuts to his arm, with embedded glass, and was medically evaluated and cleared, police said.
Officer Paul Iverson did not seek medical attention for minor scrapes to his arm and knuckles from when he fell to the ground with Nyei. Officer Witzel, with a few cuts to her knuckles, did not seek medical attention, police said.
"This is not a normal traffic stop, obviously," Renner said in closing the video. "Mr. Nyei has a different recollection as to what actually occurred and sometimes that can happen. We felt it was necessary for us to provide an accurate representation of this."