I'm seeking justice. Not just for me, but for the next young man Officer Joswiak and Sgt. Gaul pull over.
It’s been over a year since I was attacked by Officer Joe Joswiak, while Sergeant Tim Gaul stood watching. My entire life changed that day. As much as I wish I could just forget about it—I can’t. Nothing will change what happened to me, but I’m willing to fight so that it doesn’t happen to anyone else.
Last summer, I was driving to my GED orientation at the Worthington Area Learning Center.
But as I was driving to my class, two off-duty officers in an unmarked police car confronted me. They stopped in the road so that I couldn’t pass and accused me of tailgating them. They were aggressive—one even pulled out his gun. Because I didn’t want any trouble, I turned my car around to head home.
It wasn’t the first time these off-duty officers have bothered me. It’s become a problem in Worthington—young Laotian men and other immigrants getting stopped by the police for every minor thing. One time a police officer followed me for over a mile on my way to a gas station. I wasn’t doing anything wrong. But people who look like me, we get followed. We get stopped.
The confrontation with the two off-duty officers left me feeling uncomfortable and scared, so instead of going to my orientation, I turned around and headed home but I was stopped on my way home by Worthington police. I wasn’t looking for any trouble so I pulled to the side of the road.
I still don’t know how to make sense of what happened next.
[Warning: The video is violent and contains profanity.]
I heard Officer Joswiak yelling, but I didn’t even have a chance to roll down my window to hear his orders. He yanked open my door, his gun pointing right at me. I thought he was going to kill me. Then he began punching and kneeing me. I didn’t even have a chance to unbuckle my seatbelt, that’s how fast everything happened. His blows were so violent, I actually came out of my shoes.
I had no idea why Officer Joswiak was so angry—why he pulled out his gun and started yelling, cussing, and kneeing me. He just opened my door and immediately started to assault me.
I also don’t know why Sgt. Gaul just stood there and didn’t try to stop him. How could he just stand there without intervening? Even worse, he came over and hurt me also by pulling on my arms. That I’ll never understand.
I was left with physical injuries. The police ended up charging me with multiple offenses all because they thought I was tailgating them, and so I’ve been dealing with probation and fees. I lost my job. I’m scared to leave the house alone. Worthington has been my home since I was a child, but I don’t feel safe here anymore.
Meanwhile, Officer Joswiak and Sgt. Gaul have not faced any consequences for their actions.
There are always going to be good police officers and bad ones—like any job. And growing up in Worthington, I know good police officers. But police are supposed to serve and protect. Profiling people and assaulting them for no reason—that’s not what our police should be doing.
I want the system to change, because the system is broken here. Everyone sees it. Worthington has a problem with policing and it’s only getting worse. Officers should not be above the law, and Officer Joswiak and Sgt. Gaul should be responsible for their actions. Our police need to be punished like anyone else and they need better training. That’s why I am working with the ACLU of Minnesota to file a lawsuit against the officers and other responsible parties.
I am working to move past what happened last summer. I called the GED program last week and I’m planning on going to the next orientation. I want to become a physical education teacher—maybe be a coach for kids. Getting assaulted by the police was a setback, but I don’t want it to determine my future.
I want to make my community better and safer for everyone. When officers like Officer Joswiak and Sgt. Gaul are allowed to assault people in the community, our entire city is less safe. I am held responsible for my actions. But will the police be? I hope so—not just for me, but for Worthington.
Help fight for police reform in Southern Minnesota. Sign the Worthington Immigrant Task Force petition: http://campaigns.organizefor.org/petitions/petition-worthington-police-for-community-healing