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Minn. firefighter loses appeal after being fired for using force to subdue patient

St. Paul Firefighter Kenneth Zepeda had applied pressure to the neck of a combative patient


A Saint Paul, Minn. fire truck.

Saint Paul Fire Department/Facebook

By Kristi Miller
Pioneer Press

ST. PAUL, Minn. — A St. Paul firefighter who was fired by the city after using carotid artery pressure points to subdue a combative patient lost his appeal in the courts this week.

According to court documents, Kenneth Zepeda was fired from the St. Paul Fire Department in January 2022.

Court documents give the following details:

At about 1:30 a.m. on Jan. 17, 2021, several emergency workers responded to a 911 call. They found a man near a downtown transit station who was disoriented, wearing hospital scrubs, no shoes and a bloody face mask.

At first the man was cooperative with first responders but became combative and tried to punch them as they attempted to get him into an ambulance for evaluation and care, according to court documents. After they were able to get him inside the ambulance, he resisted, swearing, spitting and kicking the six responders. Eventually he was subdued after Zepeda “manipulated a pressure point on the patient.”

Once subdued, he was restrained, placed in a spit hood and taken to the hospital.

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Portions of the incident were captured on the body cam of a Metro Transit police officer on scene. After the footage was reviewed, Zepeda and the other first responders were placed on paid administrative leave while officials from another county reviewed the events that night. The Minneapolis city attorney’s office investigated the incident to determine whether fifth-degree assault charges should be filed against Zepeda, which they ultimately decided were not warranted.

On Jan 24, 2022, the city of St. Paul said it was going to terminate Zepeda for using “verbal aggression and physical force to restrain and apply pressure to the neck of the patient, prior to and after the patient was fully restrained to an ambulance stretcher.”

A three-day hearing that included an impartial arbitrator was held and at the end, the arbitrator determined that the city had grounds to fire Zepeda.

During the hearing, which included review of the body cam footage and testimony by witnesses, Zepeda said he had learned the pressure point technique as a military police officer. Zepeda is an honorably discharged veteran.

Zepeda appealed the city’s findings and his appeal was denied this week.

His attorney could not be immediately reached Friday.

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