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Battery of a police officer or excessive force arrest? Here we go again.

Natasha Lancour was arrested in the parking lot of the Keyport Lounge on Jan. 5 for allegedly striking Superior Police Officer George Gothner. Above is the unedited dashboard-cam video; below is a report from WDIO-TV.

35 Comment(s)

  1. I think it’s pretty clear who was larger, supposedly better trained and punching someone in the face right there.

    piker | Jan 23, 2014 | New Comment
  2. Not to mention that it appears he instigated the whole thing by getting all mad because she was upset and yelling. While we all know that you’re not supposed to yell at cops because their feelings are too sensitive to handle it--well here’s an example.

    If he’d been the professional he’s supposed to be, he’d have walked away to deescalate the situation. You know, doing the thing he probably tells civilians to do to avoid a fight.

    hbh1 | Jan 23, 2014 | New Comment
  3. It is of some importance what happened when Lancour and Officer Gothner exited the frame of the video, but either way one thing is pretty clear here:

    As Heidi mentioned, Officer Gothner’s job is to deescalate the situation, but upon arrival he immediately jumps into Lancour’s face and within 20 seconds he’s bouncing her off his car and throwing punches.

    The officers who were on the scene when Gothner arrived seem calm and appear to have the situation under control, yet Gothner comes charging out like he’s looking for a fight.

    Paul Lundgren | Jan 23, 2014 | New Comment
  4. Two hands are not enough to count the times I have observed Superior police officers brawling with civilians in the name of law enforcement. This is far from the worst episode I have seen. They’re some real cowboys over there.

    There’s no point in having a trial. The cop’s getting off.

    Ramos | Jan 23, 2014 | New Comment
  5. Yeaaaah. I’m not so sure slaps multiple punches to the face count as restraint. What is seen in the video is the officer starts to walk away, then turns around and reengages then … she scratches him (?) across the right side of the face (the video quality isn’t great, so it is hard to be sure, but there isn’t obvious bloody scratches when they approach the camera). I’d assume he went to the doctor, or at least took photos to document evidence?

    It looks like Gothner isn’t a stranger to (perhaps) excessive use of force: From 2004.

    edgeways | Jan 23, 2014 | New Comment
  6. Yeah, I’m not seeing any such “scratch” action going on that could prompt that kind of response. The only time her hand is anywhere near his face is when it’s up by his collar, after he’s already beating the crap out of her. Looks more like a bully who became a cop so he could get paid to experience the euphoric rush of beating people down and abusing authority.

    And of course, Ramos is right, there won’t be any repercussions for him. What’s one woman’s dignity compared to maintaining the image of a police force that can do no wrong?

    Special K | Jan 23, 2014 | New Comment
  7. A couple of things: I think it is very important what we don’t see out of frame. Secondly, regardless of her intentions she was struggling against the police officer’s hold. With the intent of getting violent? Maybe, maybe not but an officer has the right to protect himself.

    That being said, I don’t think it was necessary to bash her face off the hood of the car (it didn’t look like he was trying to put her in a hold but trying to hit her head off the hood) and punching someone is not subduing them either. Why didn’t the other police jump in to help him complete the hold?

    I don’t think anyone gets off scott free on this one.

    Makoons | Jan 23, 2014 | New Comment
  8. I read a very good comment from a local nurse. He wanted to make the point that rarely in the medical field, if ever, will there be a retaliation or attempt by medical professionals to “deescalate” by using force or physical aggression. Medical professionals are hit, bit, punched, kicked, and see many other acts of violence but do not retaliate. Police are highly trained in deescalation and the psychology of aggression and they have the tools (weapons from stun guns and mace to a handgun) so why does an officer choose to punch? Most likely due to lack of training or a disregard of training.

    heysme | Jan 23, 2014 | New Comment
  9. The more I watch this video, the more violent and out-of-control the cop seems. I am very skeptical of the face-scratching allegation. What really set the cop off, as far as I can tell, is that the woman said something back to him. In my experience of watching Superior cops smash and beat civilians, this is almost always the reason for it: Somebody talked back.

    The situation actually seems to be winding down before Officer Dirty Harry shows up. Two cops are leading away a couple of passive guys in cuffs. The woman is yelling angrily, but the cops on the scene don’t appear to be very concerned. Then Dirty Harry comes barreling out of his car and beelines for the woman, shouting and shaking his finger in her face in a very diplomatic fashion that I’m sure he learned in police school. Finishing with his tirade, he turns away--and that’s when she says something back to him. You see him tense up and turn around and start stalking her. At this point, she is not charging or attacking at all. She’s backing off from the predator who’s coming after her. That’s why they go out of the frame--she’s backing away. He had no reason to go after her, but he does, and when they come back into the picture he’s smashing her off a car hood, pulling her hair and punching her face, all the while screaming, “That’s resisting! That’s resisting!” Superior police officers are well aware of how to justify their assaults on civilians: Say they were resisting. I’ve seen it over and over.

    Do you think if there wasn’t footage of this event, that Dirty Harry would ever admit to punching anyone in the face? Ha!

    Ramos | Jan 23, 2014 | New Comment
  10. Here is the whole unedited dash-cam video. It goes for 20 minutes, but effectively ends after 10 minutes, once the car arrives at the jail garage.

    Not shown by any of the news channels is the conversation that takes place in the squad car on the way back to the jail. Although it does not necessarily speak to the issue of excessive force, which is quite evident, it is very interesting. Natasha tells Officer Gothner that what he did to her was not right and that he needs to get right with God. He repeatedly tells her to shut up and then points out to her that her actions are being recorded by the camera. Ironically (disturbingly?), he proceeds to tell her that there is no God, knowing that this comment is being recorded and with the obvious intent to further antagonize her. Does this guy have any measure of judgment or self-control?

    This incident occurred on Jan. 5 and up until we released the video to the media, the SPD refused to assist us in locating or identifying any of the witnesses shown in the video. We contacted the district attorney and city attorney, to no avail. On Jan. 22, when the media aired the dash-cam video and interviewed the police, the SPD claimed to want the public’s help in identifying the witnesses. It’s a bit suspect that for 17 days they did nothing to ID the witnesses, but when we go to the media in the hopes of finding the witnesses and to get the felony assault charges against Natasha dropped, the SPD suddenly is claiming interest in identifying the witnesses. You’d think that if they were serious in their charges against her and if they believed that their officer was acting properly, they would have been interested in using the testimony of these witnesses to build their case and to clear their officer.

    This morning we were contacted by one of the bystanders and another sent us the video he took with his cell phone. These witnesses came to us and not to the police. They indicated reluctance in providing us with this evidence, as the SPD will now know their identities and there are concerns about retaliation. The man I spoke with this morning stated that he was coming forward because he could not stay silent knowing that Natasha was charged with a very serious felony-level offense and due to the horrible beating she endured.

    I have the color photos of Officer Gothner that were taken immediately after the incident; close ups of his face where he claims to have been scratched. I don’t see any scratches. I will upload those pics tomorrow so you can judge for yourself. On top of being charged with felony and misdemeanor criminal charges, Gothner is also demanding that Natasha buy him a new pair of work pants, valued at over $60, as his knee was scraped when he tackled her to the ground and continued to punch her. I will upload the cell phone footage showing what continued out of the view of the dash cam tomorrow also. Additionally, we have requested the dash-cam videos from the other squads on the scene that night, although the SPD says that nothing of value to this incident is visible on any of them. We’ll see.

    By the way, I am in my final semester of law school and assist the attorney, Richard S. Gondik, Jr., who represents Natasha. I have met Natasha, a petite woman, married with children, who has no criminal record and was not drinking on the night of the altercation. I have watched this video over a hundred times, yet it gets more disturbing each time I view it. I really hope we are able to get justice for Natasha and that this officer is dealt with properly so he cannot continue to abuse and victimize those who he was hired to protect and serve.

    Emerickson | Jan 24, 2014 | New Comment
  11. Awesome. I can’t wait to see the pics and new footage.

    A few tidbits from Google and the News Tribune archives:

    Officer George Gothner, Jr. is the son of the late George Gothner, Sr., who owned Roby’s Bar and the Rustic Bar in Duluth.

    In 2004, as noted earlier, Officer Gothner shot a man twice in self-defense. In that case, dash-cam footage exonerated him of wrongdoing. In fact, he was awarded a Distinguished Officer medal for his actions. Check out his heroic profile here.

    The earliest reference to Officer Gothner that I found was from 2001, so he has been on the Superior police force for at least thirteen years. His brother Gary Gothner is also on the force, and has served as president of the Superior police union. On May 26, 1999, the News Tribune reported

    Some increase in assaults may be due to police responding to incidents, including bar problems and children’s fights, that they weren’t called to five, 10 years ago, said Officer Gary Gothner , who’s been with the department eight years.

    “We’re getting problems we didn’t see years ago,” he said. “We’re getting more juvenile assaults — young juveniles, 10-12 years old, reporting being battered by other 10-year-olds.”

    Youths and young adults seem to have more violent natures than they used to, and they don’t know how to control it, observed Gothner , who patrols the city’s North End.

    Ramos | Jan 24, 2014 | New Comment
  12. This whole thing bothers me a lot, mostly because I can picture myself reacting the same damn way that woman did. Yes she was upset and yelling, but I probably would have been too, and as soon as a man put his hands on me like that, hell yes I would be trying to pull away! And then what gets me is when he’s smashing her head on the hood he says “stop resisting!” Seriously? Whose instincts tell them, “oh, someone is trying to hit my head on a car, I should probably just go limp and give in!” The natural instinct in the heat of the moment is to try to pull away, and protect yourself. The logic of it being a cop doing this to you and you should probably just let him do it doesn’t go through your mind fast enough.

    I’m not saying this is a race thing, but I can’t help but wonder if that had been someone like me, a young white woman, if he would have come at me like that and handled me that way. I honestly don’t think so, and I think it would have caused even more outrage from the community.

    wskyline | Jan 24, 2014 | New Comment
  13. Gary Gothner, George Gothner’s brother, was at the scene of this incident and I believe he was visible in at least part of the video.

    Emerickson | Jan 24, 2014 | New Comment
  14. Not sure of the best way to post multiple files on here, and it only lets me upload jpgs, so I will post a series of links to the documents of interest via my Google Drive.

    Superior Police Dept. Report

    Superior PD / Douglas County SD Case Report

    Gothner’s injuries, pg 1

    Gothner’s injuries, pg 2

    Gothner’s injuries, pg 3

    Gothner’s demand that Natasha buy him an $80 pair of pants

    Natasha’s mug shot, front

    Natasha’s mug shot, side

    Natasha’s picture the day after, #1

    Natasha’s picture the day after, #2

    Natasha’s picture the day after, #3

    I will get you the cell phone footage and the 911 call as soon as I can. The local news stations will be airing the cell phone footage tonight.

    Emerickson | Jan 24, 2014 | New Comment
  15. Sorry to anyone who had trouble with the links. I updated the privacy settings and they should now be accessible.

    Emerickson | Jan 24, 2014 | New Comment
  16. The unedited dashboard video is now posted at the top of this page. It’s not the full 20-minute version, but a nine-minute segment that cuts out the useless front and back-end stuff.

    Paul Lundgren | Jan 24, 2014 | New Comment
  17. Even if there wasn’t audio, Gothner’s body language says everything. From the instant he arrives on the scene, he radiates aggression and contempt for Lancour: The pointed finger jabbing in her face, the contemptuous shoulder shrug when he turns away from her the first time, the explosion into violence at the slightest provocation. It’s pretty clear what sort of a lovely fellow we’re dealing with.

    In his report, Gothner writes this:

    I told Lancour that it was time to shut her mouth and go. I was moving Lancour backwards and she was yelling at me not to touch her. I told her again it was time to leave and again told her stop her yelling. I turned and started to walk away from Lancour. She started yelling again about her brother being arrested. I told her to leave. She yelled something to the effect of ‘fuck you! you don’t know’.

    Notice how Lancour is the only one yelling and swearing in the report. It’s a nice little fairy tale about the calm cop versus the wild, crazy woman. If the report were rewritten to reflect reality, it would be something like this:

    I yelled at Lancour that it was time to shut her fucking mouth and go. I was moving Lancour backwards, shaking my finger in her face and yelling, and she was yelling at me not to touch her. I shouted at her again that it was time to leave and again screamed at her to shut the fuck up. I turned, jerking my arm contemptuously, and started to walk away from Lancour. She started yelling again about her brother being arrested. I told her to shut her fucking mouth. She yelled something to the effect of ‘fuck you! you don’t know’.

    Ramos | Jan 24, 2014 | New Comment
  18. It’s a bit disconcerting that the officer is allowed to continue “protecting and serving” while an independent investigation is in progress to determine whether or not he is a threat to those he is charged with protecting. Another thing that bothers me is the level of unprofessional-ism in the car. I don’t understand how none of his superiors have thought, at any time, for any number of reasons, that this man has a few red flags and at the least should maybe take a leave of absence until the results of the case are delivered.

    jobie_1 | Jan 24, 2014 | New Comment
  19. If they admit that Gothner has red flags, they’ll have to admit that half the force has red flags. For those readers who are surprised by Gothner’s conduct, let me assure you that it is very, very common on the Superior PD. The fact that Gothner is a 13-year veteran of the force, supposedly a role model, should say a lot.

    Late at night on Tower Avenue, the police don’t take much notice of the taxicabs that are parked here and there. But I can say, having driven one of those cabs for more than a decade, that I take plenty of notice of the police.

    I am also convinced, though it is impossible to prove, that much of Gothner’s reaction was directed at Lancour’s skin color.

    Ramos | Jan 24, 2014 | New Comment
  20. It’s clear that a crime was committed. It was committed by George Gothner. I hope Emerickson keeps us updated. As a human rights lawyer, I would like to observe any trial of Ms. Lancour, but I hope it doesn’t come to that. I hope the DA is impartial and independent, as s/he should be, and drops the charges against Ms. Lancour and files charges of felony assault and battery against George Gothner.

    Bret | Jan 24, 2014 | New Comment
  21. Wonder if the reason Cop G comes out of the gate so aggressively has anything to do with the fact that his wife is calling him on the cell phone just as he arrives. You’ll note he chose the “WARNING WARNING WHOOP WHOOP IT’S THE WIFE!! WARNING” ring tone.

    hbh1 | Jan 24, 2014 | New Comment
  22. Here is the cell phone footage from the bystander.

    This is the unedited version:

    Here, our tech expert cleaned up the contrast to make the image quality clearer:

    Audio is not included, as nothing the officers nor Natasha says can be heard and the bystander next to the man with the camera was yelling and there was a lot of distracting interference noise.

    It seems to me that Officer George Gothner failed to accurately describe this part of the altercation in his report.

    Emerickson | Jan 24, 2014 | New Comment
  23. Bret, Dan Blank is the D.A. and A.D.A. Shawn Woller is handling this case. They have all of these materials and have watched all the same videos we have, including the cell phone footage. We have repeatedly implored them to drop the charges against Natasha, but as of today, the charges stand. There is a preliminary hearing scheduled for 3:00 p.m. on January 31, 2014 at the Douglas County Courthouse, in front of Court Commissioner Lovejoy. Right now the public outrage is focused on the SPD. However, come January 31 if they proceed with these charges the target of the community’s ire will shift, rightfully, to the prosecutor’s office.

    Emerickson | Jan 24, 2014 | New Comment
  24. I can’t state it any better than what I’ve already read here in the comments. Shouldn’t one of the primary goals of an officer coming into a tense situation be to defuse it and calm everyone down? How does running out of your car and getting into someone’s face so aggressively calm anyone down? If anything, it’s just going to escalate the situation and make an agitated person even more agitated. I would HOPE this is not an example of how Superior PD is trained to handle these situations, but considering the PD’s attorney thinks it’s defensible, I wouldn’t be surprised if it is.

    Chad S | Jan 24, 2014 | New Comment
  25. I will be at the courthouse on the 31st, the prosecutors need to drop the charges against Natasha. They need to stop ignoring the rogue officers in our police department. People have always whispered that the SPD is the soup mafia because they do things that are illegal all the time, from harassment, to threats, to dating under age girls, to solicitation. Dan Blank has been DA for at least 15 years most times he runs unopposed because the police know he will prosecute their cases and not prosecute their crimes. No one is blind to your crooked behavior but we are helpless to make you to be held accountable

    Michelle Butrick | Jan 24, 2014 | New Comment
  26. Hello. I am a criminal defense attorney in Superior. Do not send your anger to ADA Shawn Woller or to ADA Ruth Kressel. They are decent prosecutors who have little to do about this.

    Direct your anger against DA Blank. He is the attorney who knows, or who should know, about Gothner’s reputation. Notify Judge Glonek and Judge Thimm about your concerns. We, the defense attorneys, lack the credibility that you citizens have.

    Now we have video of an abusive cop. That’s great. Only this isn’t the first time this cop is alleged to have acted unduly violently. Ask any defense attorney in Superior about this, and they will easily note their assent regarding Gothner beating their clients. Ask any ADA or judge, and they will not. It’s not that no one cares, it’s that there needs to be video of the abuse.

    Thank God that Gothner is being hoisted by his own petard, i.e. the ICOP video. Now your question is — will he keep his job? He will, as all the SPD cops do, unless you raise hell. The only officer who got fired, out of all the SPD cops who broke the law, is the one who is allegedly not heterosexual.

    This agency is corrupt. The good cops, and there are many, have to live with this. The bad cops, and there are several, get away with this. Investigate Gothner. See how many abuses he has committed. Help rid the community of him.

    Tell Lagesse and DA Blank that this is simply unacceptable. You will have to speak long and long and long and long. No one will care. Do it anyway. For a long time. For a long, long, long time until the problem is fixed.

    Don/’t count on the Superior Police Dept. fixing the problem. The department simply will ignore it.

    Ditto the DAs office. Loudly protest this.

    I will not be around long enough to fix this. Other attorneys will. ADAs Kressel and Woller care. So does former ADA Fruehauf, who is now a defense attorney. So is attorney Fritz Anderson. Contact them. They will try to help.

    Bad, abusive cops are nothing new. Video footage of bad cops is new. The judges will, unfortunately, be surprised. Show them this footage. Be strong.

    emmadogs | Jan 24, 2014 | New Comment
  27. Emmadogs, I’m Lrj a local talk show host, CBS Field Correspondent and civilian investigator for eight U.S. Congress members. Also the host of LRJTV. I’m willing to expose Superior Police Department. Inbox me on YouTube at

    Lrjtv | Jan 25, 2014 | New Comment
  28. Reading my last post again, I realize I was long on hand wringing and drama, and short on helpful suggestions.

    So: through the years, SPD officers have been alleged to have acted violently against citizens, to have planted evidence, or to have committed nonviolent offenses. To the best of my knowledge, they have kept their jobs, save one officer. The police union is, by reputation, a powerful union.

    We all make mistakes in our jobs. I certainly would not want to be judged or defined by a mistake at work, or by my other worst moments. I would hope people who know me would exercise compassion.

    But officers cross a line when, without cause, they engage in violent acts against citizens. And, based upon the DNT’s article today, the SPD and its police union will try to, again, justify actions that cannot be justified.

    This is a shame, because I personally know many, many officers who are absolutely excellent at their jobs, who are kind and patient in the face of abuse and antagonism, and who maintain the highest levels of professionalism and decency. These terrific officers are tarnished when violent colleagues are allowed to continue to be violent on the job.

    Garner facts and present them to your elected officials (DA Blank) and others in power (SPD’s Lagesse). Is it possible to search Douglas County criminal complaints (which are documents available to the public; I don’t know if they can be accessed online) and see whether any particular officer seems to habitually be the ‘victim’ of battery to a peace officer, or of obstruction/resisting? Is it possible, via Freedom of Information requests, to review records of disciplinary proceedings?

    Social media is excellent at exposing abuses. But unless citizens make their voices heard, the abuses will continue.

    This is the last post I’ll do on this, because I have to deal with this distressing bullshit at work, and do not want it permeating my home. So thank you in advance for working to expose violence, and thank you to my law enforcement friends who do such a great job under trying circumstances.

    emmadogs | Jan 25, 2014 | New Comment
  29. Press Release

    At noon on Wednesday, January 29, 2014 the NAACP and members of the Duluth-Superior Community are holding a press conference on the First Floor of the Douglas County Courthouse to protest the unjust criminal charges, including felony battery of a law enforcement officer, brought against Natasha Lancour, a Superior resident, nursing student, wife and mother, who is shown on police dash camera and bystander cell phone video being repeatedly punched in the face by Officer George Gothner of the Superior Police Department. Despite the Wisconsin Department of Justice taking over the investigation of this officer’s use of excessive force, District Attorney Daniel Blank continues to pursue criminal charges against Natasha, while Officer Gothner remains on duty and uncharged with any criminal offense.

    Questions and comments should be directed to Claudie Washington, President of the local NAACP.
    Phone: (218) 590-9009

    Emerickson | Jan 28, 2014 | New Comment
  30. LRJTV’s report on Youtube:

    Emerickson | Jan 29, 2014 | New Comment
  31. Update: The felony charge against Natasha will be reduced and amended to misdemeanor resisting arrest. Natasha’s hearing will still take place tomorrow at 3:00 p.m. at the Douglas County Courthouse, Third Floor, in front of Court Commissioner Lovejoy. Natasha is still facing 2 misdemeanor charges, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct.

    District Attorney Dan Blank, who has now taken over the case from ADA Shawn Woller, has stated that he will continue to pursue the 2 misdemeanor charges against Natasha and that following tomorrow’s hearing, the next court date will be in April, after the Wisconsin Department of Justice has finished its investigation of Officer George Gothner’s use of excessive force. Dan will re-evaluate in April if and how he will proceed against Natasha based on the results and recommendations of the DOJ.

    On a related note, what is with the title of the DNT’s article covering this topic:

    Lawyer: Felony charge to be reduced for woman in Superior police dash-cam incident

    “Superior police dash-cam incident”?! Wow, please tell me more about this woman and her run-in with a dash-cam. That sounds like quite an interesting story. Did she attack the dash-cam? Did it attack her? I’m dying to know…

    Honestly, I do not think calling it the “Superior police dash-cam incident” is at all appropriate. You take the officer and the violence completely out of it, re-frame and use euphemisms to shape public perception. While this may seem petty to those unfamiliar with persuasive techniques and journalism, I expect the DNT writers and editors would be acutely aware of the impact of this re-framing and they should really reconsider their choice of words here.

    Emerickson | Jan 30, 2014 | New Comment
  32. In a way, the dash-cam is the most important element of this whole story.

    I want people to consider this and answer it for themselves honestly: If you read a story in the newspaper about how a woman who was charged with felony assault of a police officer outside a bar was accusing the officer of using excessive force in her arrest, what would your reaction be?

    The police have a lock on public opinion. In the absence of video evidence, stories are always framed to their advantage, and the public generally takes their side. The most unique thing about this incident is that it was captured on camera. I think that’s awesome. I love seeing abusers of authority exposed. Stuff like this happens off-camera a lot more than people want to believe.

    Ramos | Jan 31, 2014 | New Comment
  33. Also, it bears repeating over and over that, absent video evidence, the cops would have been perfectly happy to send Natasha Lancour to prison for felony assault. Cops on witness stands will say any old thing to get their victims convicted; in “he said-she said” situations, judges always side with cops.

    Ramos | Jan 31, 2014 | New Comment
  34. The Duluth News Tribune is a propaganda machine for the local police and always have been. It’s very simple, if the DNT started being critical of the police, the police wouldn’t be so happy to talk to the newspaper boys. This would make DNT’s job more difficult and expensive since they would have to do real investigative journalism instead of just regurgitating the police version.

    Aldin | Jan 31, 2014 | New Comment
  35. The News Tribune’s crime reporting is nonexistent. Every crime-related story that they run is a press release from the police department. There was a time (it seems quaint to think of it now) when a reporter would spend part of each morning looking through the police station’s incident log to see what had happened during the night.

    Ramos | Jan 31, 2014 | New Comment

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