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Monday, May 12, 2008

Is Newport man a victim or a pest?

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Blogger Bob said...

Paul Hansen's brutality claims boil over at City Hall
By Bob Shaw
Article Last Updated: 05/10/2008 09:18:56 PM CDT

Holding signs used at their Newport City Hall rally, Paul Hansen, right, and Mary Moenke stand in the garage where Hansen claims he was harassed. (Sherri LaRose-Chiglo, Pioneer Press)Newport, population 3,700, isn't known for police brutality.

Thus, officials were stunned May 1 when dozens of protesters gathered at City Hall to wave signs saying "Newport Gestapo" and chant "No justice, no peace."

They marched into the tiny City Hall, interrupting a City Council meeting, with an angry message: Stop brutalizing 67-year-old Paul Hansen.

"We will be back another day until I get justice!" shouted Hansen to the surprised council members. Although police say they've never touched him, he charges them with harassment severe enough to constitute brutality.

But Hansen's neighbors and the police say Hansen is not a victim — they are victims of Hansen.

Hansen has generated more police calls than anyone in the 33-year career of Newport Police Chief Veid Muiznieks, the chief said — 128 calls since Hansen moved to the city in 2001. Hansen complains about barking dogs, bright lights, engine noises and swearing, complaints his weary neighbors say are trivial.

"The issue is not police brutality. He is the issue," said a neighbor, who said she was too afraid of Hansen to have her name published. "He has wrecked this neighborhood."

Police and neighbors said Hansen joined the board of a Minneapolis victims' rights group, then snookered group members into believing he was a victim of brutality.

"I find it interesting he could not gather anyone from this city to believe what he believes," said Muiznieks. "He had to go out of the area to gather supporters."
Faced with the accusations, officials need to decide: Is Hansen the victim of the first known case of police brutality in Newport's history? Or is he a pest who wastes police time — and his neighbors' patience — with endless complaints?


The curious case of Paul Hansen has been simmering for years.

He retired from a career as a chef in establishments including Murray's Restaurant in Minneapolis and Hazeltine Golf Club in Chaska.

Walking around his yard May 1, he pointed out homes of neighbors with whom he is having running quarrels.

"That woman is screwing everyone in town," said Hansen, pointing to one house. "That one revs his Harley as high as hell to wake me up."

Children sit on the roof of a shed and egg his house, he said. Hansen said he has had nails appear in his driveway, and the roof of his convertible has been slashed.

One neighbor said Hansen called police for barking-dog complaints "at least 50 times" — once when the dog was with the family on vacation.

Hansen said neighbor Michael Leonard installed bright lights that kept him awake at night.

Leonard apparently discovered that Hansen's 65-foot-long privacy fence was 15 inches into Leonard's property. Hansen said he refused to move it — so Leonard tore it out.

Hansen ran for City Council in 2004 and 2006, earning 13 percent and 11 percent of the vote, respectively. During his campaigns, he suggested shutting down the police department and relying on the Washington County Sheriff's Department for law enforcement.

Hansen said that angered the police, who began following him and cruising past his house.

"My crime is that I challenged the wrong people," he said.

Hansen said that in spring 2007, he found Tylenol pills and chicken bones in his yard, where his dog was confined.

Then, later last summer, he was alone in his back yard one night, and "I saw a hand come out of the darkness (on Leonard's deck) with a bottle of Nighttime Tylenol."

He said he didn't see whose hand it was but watched as someone tossed the pills into his yard.

The dog died in February — seven months later. Hansen said the cause of the dog's death was not determined, but he accuses Leonard of poisoning the dog.

Leonard has an unlisted phone number and didn't respond to a letter taped to his door May 2.

Hansen said Leonard and the police are working together to harass him. He said the police didn't respond effectively to his calls for service, including the complaint about the alleged poisoning.


The chief said that in April he was delivering copies of police records Hansen requested for a complaint against the department.

"He mistreats my patrol officers, so I went myself," Muiznieks said.

Muiznieks said the garage door was open, so he walked in to rubberband the envelope to a doorknob — as he has done in other garages at other times.

Hansen said he caught the chief "rummaging" in his garage. He said the chief taunted him and laughed at him.

Everyone in town is scared of the chief, Hansen said, describing him as "a nasty-ass bully."

"He wanted a physical confrontation in the garage," Hansen said. "I would have liked to have torn into that guy."

Muiznieks said he stood in the garage, holding the envelope, as Hansen took pictures.

"I just smiled. That's what you do when someone is taking your picture," Muiznieks said.

Muiznieks recalled, "He followed me out to the street and said, 'You are a J-E-R-K!' I thought I was on the school playground.

"Maybe that was the brutality. I don't know how we brutalized this man. We never touched the guy."


Neighbors — even those whom Hansen said are friendly to him — are skeptical of his accounts of dog poisoning, conspiracy and police brutality.

"Paul makes his own problems," said one who asked not to be identified.

Neighbor Brian Jackson said Hansen is sociable and buys him and his children presents.

"He bought me this sweat shirt," he said, standing on his rain-soaked back porch. "But Paul is sometimes boisterous about nonissues."

Muiznieks said the department responds to every complaint. Officers investigated the poisoning report thoroughly, he said, but he admitted being puzzled by Hansen's allegations.

"When I have put pills in my dog's hamburger, he discovers the pill and spits it out," Muiznieks said. Tylenol, he said, is an odd choice of poisons, and he didn't see how it could kill a dog seven months later. Most likely, he said, the 12-year-old dog died of old age.

He said Hansen has been treated fairly in all of the calls.

"He has used plenty of the city's resources," Muiznieks said. His file on Hansen is more than 4 inches thick, he said.

Mayor Kevin Chapdelaine doubts Hansen's treatment can be called brutality or even harassment. He trusts Muiznieks and said he is not aware of any similar complaints in the city's past.

Hansen has called council members, written to state legislators and has called Chapdelaine at home about six times, once after midnight.

"About two years ago, back when we were speaking, I told him, 'Paul, stop fighting with the police. Stop fighting with your neighbors. We have better things to do,' " the mayor said.


The accusations came to a rowdy climax May 1.

Hansen had joined the board of Communities Against Police Brutality, a Minneapolis victims' advocacy group. He gave members his account of his treatment by police.

Brutality doesn't have to be physical, said group director Michelle Gross. "Mental abuse can be just as bad. It can be just having a sense of being in danger and not feeling secure in your home.

"Brutality, misconduct, lack of service, going into someone's home without a warrant — it all qualifies."

The group distributed several thousand fliers, including a sentence implying a link between the police and the death of Hansen's dog: "The cops have been screwing us over since 2005 and Dana, our beloved German shepherd, mysteriously died."

On a chilly evening, about 20 protesters showed up at City Hall. Except for Hansen and the woman he lives with, none was from Newport. The protesters collected their signs — each made by Hansen.

Kenneth Siems, of Minneapolis, looked up at his placard and scratched his head. It said, "Stop bullying children," with the word "children" blocked out by tape.

"I don't know what this is for," he said. "I have never been to a protest before."

Hansen explained that the sign originally was made for an earlier protest, then modified.

Julie O'Neal, of Minneapolis, was asked to explain her sign — "Stop animal abuse."

"The neighbor poisoned the dog, and it finally did die," she said. "If it was my dog, I would have gotten a gun out. Animals are our children."

Dwight Young, of Minneapolis, said, "Paul supported us. We are here to support him. He is getting harassed by the city."

When the group crashed the council meeting, officials gawked at the crowd of strangers waving signs and shouting repeatedly: "If Paul don't get no justice, you don't get no peace."

As they filed out of City Hall, a retired police officer who wouldn't give his name sat by the door. To each protester, he said, "Get a life. ... Get a life. ... Get a life. ..."

At his house, Hansen hosted a supper for the protesters, grateful for their support.

"This is the most lawless community," he said, looking up and down the street warily. "I thought these would be my golden years, but they are a golden nightmare."

Bob Shaw can be reached at 651-228-5433.

11:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For real? There is one like this man in every neighborhood. IF, and it sounds like a big if, that organization had any credibility they just lost it. What a joke.

If I am ever brutalized by a police officer that is the last organization I will call. They just trivialized the entire issue.

6:12 PM  

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