Man at center of St. Paul cop excessive force trial says he remembers only the police dog biting him

A man is flanked by two women as they walk in a skyway.
St. Paul police officer Brett Palkowitsch leaves the Warren E. Burger Federal Court Building on Friday, Nov. 15, 2019 in St. Paul. Palkowitsch is charged with violating the civil rights of Frank Baker. On June 24, 2016, Palkowitsch repeatedly kicked Baker while Baker was being bitten by a police dog.
Christine T. Nguyen | MPR News

“Life ain’t what it used to be,” Frank Baker said in federal court Friday in St. Paul. He testified in the trial against St. Paul police officer Brett Palkowitsch, charged with using excessive force against Baker.

Baker said on June 24, 2016, following a concert, he was sitting in his Jeep and talking on the phone when police arrived. After police ordered him to do so, Baker got out of the vehicle. Then suddenly a dog, released by Officer Brian Ficcadenti, dragged him to the ground.

“I thought I was going to die,” he said. He showed jurors the scars on his legs and chest.

Palkowitsch kicked Baker while he lay on the ground, as the police dog was biting him. Baker suffered a punctured lung and broken ribs.

A trial brief for the defense has said the officers could consider Baker’s moving his hands to his torso as a threat because he may have had a weapon there. Baker was unarmed.

Earlier in the week, Ficcadenti testified for the prosecution that in retrospect, he would not have released his K9 and that Palkowitsch used more force than was necessary.

On Friday, Baker cried as he watched a video and recalled the events of that night. He appeared visibly shaken. During the trial, the defense showed pictures of his leg wound soon after he was bitten.

He asked in shock, “Is that my leg?”

Frank Baker, 53, has reached a tentative settlement with St. Paul.
Frank Baker in the offices of his attorney on March 27, 2017.
Tim Nelson | MPR News 2017

Under questioning by defense attorney Deborah Ellis, Baker said he couldn’t remember many of the events that happened that night. He had no idea police officers were yelling at him. He did remember the dog: “It felt like I was being eaten alive.”

Baker did not know his lungs had collapsed until after his surgery and couldn’t understand why he could not breathe.

Three years later, Baker told jurors he has nightmares from the “scariest time in my life.” He also described shortness of breath, even on short walks to his car.

“This is every day of my life.”

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