Bismarck, ND (KXNet)- KX News has obtained a copy of the termination letter sent to a former police officer who was fired Sunday from the Bismarck Police Department (BPD) after he was accused of using excessive force.

George Huff was fired following an investigation into a March 9 incident in which he used physical force to subdue a 63-year-old man. In the termination letter dated May 19, BPD Chief of Police Dave Draovitch noted that Huff violated general orders governing use of force, treatment of people, code of ethics, and others.

According to a BPD news release issued on March 10, police were called to the area of 24th Street and East Main Avenue just before 8:00 p.m. regarding a man standing in the middle of the street. The news release states that the man began to display aggressive behavior and would not allow the officer to detain him. Huff used force to gain control of the man and take him into custody.

A search of court records does not show that the 63-year-old man is facing any charges related to the March 9 incident. KX News reached out to Burleigh County State’s Attorney Julie Lawyer to inquire whether charges against the man were dropped. However, we have not heard back.

According to BPD, other officers within the department felt Huff’s use of force the evening of March 9 was excessive and reported the incident to BPD administrators. An internal investigation began and Huff was placed on administrative leave prior to his termination.

The North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation (ND BCI) also conducted a separate investigation into the incident. BPD Chief of Police Draovitch informed KX News earlier this week that the ND BCI investigative findings were turned over to the Burleigh County State’s Attorney’s Office for review.

The termination letter details prior incidents involving Huff.

The letter noted one instance when Huff told a victim of a crime to “shut the **** up” when she was speaking with him. The letter states that one sergeant was so concerned about the behavior that he emailed other shift sergeants to look out for any similar behavior in the future. The letter details another time in which Huff spoke with a suspect in a similar manner.

The letter states that in a third incident, Huff took a phone message about a parking complaint during which the person hung up on him. According to the termination letter, Huff called the person back and eventually told them to “**** off”.

Draovitch wrote in the termination letter, “What is most concerning to me is the fact that you have the propensity to lose your temper.”

“This is not the type of behavior I will accept from a BPD officer,” the letter continued.

Christopher Redmann, who is representing Huff, told KX News via email, “This is a case about a patrol officer defending himself and using lawful reasonable force to effect a lawful seizure against a suspect who kept ratcheting up his resistance.”

Redmann also noted that “Nothing in the BPD termination paperwork mentions the facts from that night or provides any analysis from this incident which is telling. The only listed facts are character assassination vignettes from the past which never gave rise to previous discipline.”

Redmann went on to describe what happened the evening of March 9 as follows:

“I’m (sic) the middle of the night, Officer Huff was dispatched to a man acting erratic and presenting a safety hazard by walking in the middle of a street. Officer Huff, patrolling alone, stopped and approached the man, but the man refused to stop and continued to ignore commands. BPD Administration concedes the stop of this man was entirely lawful. Officer Huff then attempted to stop the man from merely walking away and to detain and speak with him, lawfully. He did this by grabbing onto the suspect’s hands from behind… No less than three times. The man pulled away every single time. Finally when Officer Huff tried to cuff him, the man turned around chest to chest in an unambiguous confrontational, fighting manner. This is called resisting. In my experience, most officers would’ve brought the man to the ground immediately upon the first signs of resisting, because that’s how they’re trained; however, Officer Huff didn’t, he persisted with minimal force to get the subject to comply. The irony is that Officer Huff continually used minimal force throughout this whole encounter when more aggressive force would’ve otherwise been justified. 

Once chest to chest and dealing with a confrontational suspect who was already not obeying lawful commands, Officer Huff attempted a trained takedown to prevent a full on fight. Backup was coming but he was still by himself with this confrontational suspect now struggling on the ground. On the ground Officer Huff was stuck in the awkward position with his handcuffs in his hand and he couldn’t put them away nor has ever been in a training scenario where this has happened. 

The suspect then both tried to put Officer Huff in a headlock and bite him. Additionally, the suspect grabbed at Officer Huff’s chest mounted knife, which officers are trained to respond with deadly force. If a suspect reaches for an officers’ deadly weapons (gun, knife, etc), they are trained to respond with deadly force. Officer Huff did not respond that way. Instead, Officer Huff again used minimal force and merely punched the suspect several times to stop his attempts to be disarmed and be put in a choke hold. Officer Huff could’ve resorted to using deadly force which would’ve been entirely justified. 

Backup just then arrived, and they attempted to restrain the suspect together. Even with two officers now there, the suspect reached for his waistband where a weapon could’ve been concealed. To prevent that from happening Officer Huff used a trained forearm strike to the suspects trap area to get the arm free and restrained. After the suspect was compliant, no further use of force was applied to him and he was taken into custody. 

State law, federal law, and BPD policies require the police to use reasonable force, but never minimal force. The analysis is always with the understanding these are dynamic, tense, rapidly evolving situations where police officers rely on instinct and training to the best of their ability. That’s exactly what Officer Huff did here to defend himself and restrain a suspect who was not only resisting arrest but going for Officer Huff’s chest knife… To obviously be used against him in a deadly force encounter.”

Redmann has requested a Civil Service Commission hearing on Huff’s behalf. The Civil Service Commission hears appeals on disciplinary cases and other personnel matters. Redmann noted that he is in the process of obtaining a use of force expert for the hearing.

According to a BPD spokesperson, there is dash cam video that captured the encounter. Draovitch declined to release the video citing the pending hearing with the Civil Service Commission.