Illegal fireworks incident escalates

A 16-year-old male is suspected of launching a Roman candle in the direction of a Stillwater home July 4. When Stillwater police were called to the area regarding harassment via fireworks just before 10 p.m., they were informed on the way that the situation had escalated to a fight in the yard.

According to police reports, when officers arrived at the 400 block of Broadway Street South in Stillwater, a female escorted the officers to the back yard where a large gathering was surrounding a male restraining another male on the ground. The male who was restraining the other male identified himself as an off-duty Minnesota State Trooper. Stillwater Police then handcuffed the restrained male while assessing the situation.

Officers questioned the 16-year-old male, who stated that he was standing in the yard preparing to light a Roman candle when another firecracker lit and startled him. The then-lit Roman candle was knocked over when the 16-year-old male tripped, and accidentally went off toward a house across the street, the suspect told police. He said he didn’t intend to fire the fireworks toward the neighboring house.

After the Roman candle had gone off, the suspect said, another male approached him who identified himself as a police officer with a badge and was wearing a firearm in a hostler under his shirt. The teen said the police officer pulled him by the arm away from the area, grabbed his neck and threw him the to ground “for no reason,” and restrained his hands behind his back before Stillwater Police arrived.

One of the witnesses to the incident was the teenager’s stepfather, who did not see the fireworks incident but did see his stepson restrained on the ground.

Other witnesses said they saw the off-duty officer restrain the teenager in an aggressive manner. Officers spoke with witnesses and heard similar stories, that the fireworks incident was an accident and that they felt the off-duty officer’s actions were aggressive.

A male witness approached the Stillwater Police officers and said he believed excessive force was used.

The off-duty officer asked Stillwater Police to issue a disorderly conduct citation to the teenager for passively resisting him as he attempted to pull him away from the area. Stillwater Police determined not to do so, and forwarded the incident to the Stillwater city attorney for review.

As Stillwater Police walked back to their squad cars, they witnessed the off-duty officer on the phone with his supervisor regarding the incident. Police reports say the supervisor had asked the off-duty officer if he had grabbed the teenager by the neck, and he said that he did not believe he had.

Alcohol was not found to be involved.