Former Minn. cop testifies about attack, suffering
Felicia Dee Reilly was beat by a man suffering from bipolar disorder when his parents called 911, frightened by their son
By Emily Gurnon
Pioneer Press, St. Paul, Minn.
ST. PAUL, Minn. — A former St. Paul police officer testified Thursday that she suffered severe and lasting injuries when a man attacked her after she responded to a 911 hang-up call.
Felicia Dee Reilly, 56, said she was on patrol alone March 24, 2010, when she drove to a house in the 1600 block of Birmingham Street. She waited a couple of minutes before she went to the door; a backup squad car was on its way.
The other officer had not yet arrived, but Reilly approached the house anyway, she testified in Ramsey County District Court.
Almost as soon as she got inside, she knew there was trouble, she said. An elderly woman, referring to her son, whispered, "He's been threatening us, and he's been drinking beer," Reilly said.
The son, Thomas Jerard Swenson, 35, stood in the living room and looked angrily at Reilly, she said.
"I put my hand up and I said, 'It's OK, there's nothing wrong here,' " Reilly said. She told him to take his hands out of his pockets. Instead, she said, he "squared off" and thrust his hand deeper into his pocket.
When she tried to handcuff him, he swung at her with a closed fist, grazing her face, she said.
Reilly drew her Taser and shot him with it. It had little effect; he pulled the prongs out "and then he charged me," she said.
Over the next few minutes, Swenson kicked Reilly and punched her several times in the head, she said. She tried to fight him off with her baton and chemical spray, to little effect. She almost lost consciousness, she said.
Swenson was charged with first-degree assault. Testimony at his trial began Wednesday and will continue Friday.
Three years after the incident, Reilly sees double, has nearly constant migraine headaches and can't tolerate sound and light, she testified. She also has memory problems, she said. After being unable to work on even light duty, she receives disability benefits from the Minnesota Public Employees Retirement Association, she said.
Swenson's attorney maintains that his client has a different version of what happened.
Reilly tripped and fell while trying to subdue Swenson, said Seamus Mahoney. She was injured, but Swenson did not attack her.
During his cross-examination, he pointed out that Reilly "seemed to be doing pretty well," despite her complaints of not being able to carry on cogent conversations.
She said that Thursday she was doing well.
Swenson's elderly parents told police at the time of the incident that their son had bipolar disorder, had not been taking his medications, drank to excess and smoked marijuana. They had called police the day before the incident with Reilly because he was making threats that scared them, according to the criminal complaint in the case.
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