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Criminal charges filed against GBPD Officer

Officer Knutson dash cam footage
Posted at 10:47 AM, Apr 20, 2023
and last updated 2023-04-20 11:47:43-04

GREEN BAY (NBC 26) — Officer Matthew Knutson, a 13-year Green Bay Police Department veteran, has been formally charged in Brown County court for his actions when trying to take a person into custody.

Knutson is charged with misconduct in office through fraudulent record or statement, a felony that carries up to three and a half years in prison if convicted. He is also charged with a misdemeanor, negligent operation of a vehicle, which carries not more than nine months.

These charges come after Knutson hit a man with his squad car on November 23, 2021, while other officers were tracking the man down on foot. The man was identified as Robert Sanchez with warrants for his arrest. Sanchez led police on a foot chase after a traffic stop for failing to yield the right of way.

Knutson's squad car knocked Sanchez to the ground, and he was taken into custody. In released body cam video, Sanchez is heard saying he can't breathe while Knutson tells him "You're not hurt."

During a press conference, Green Bay Police Chief Chris Davis said they were made aware of Knutson's actions almost a year later by the Brown County District Attorney's Office, in October 2022, when they found Knutson's police report potentially conflicted with video and other documents from the arrest.

According to the criminal complaint, Knutson's police report says he drove close to the suspect in the driveway of an apartment complex and yelled through his window for the man to "Get on the ground, or something to that effect." Knuston says he then accelerated to go up the slight incline on the driveway and the suspect ran in front of him. Knutson's police report goes on to say "The speed of my squad is estimated at less than five miles per hour. The contact caused between my vehicle and the male was unintentional. It caused him to fall initially, but then get up and start running away again."

In the criminal complaint, Knutson's report went on to say "He said his leg (left) hurt from running but was not injured from either being tased by Ofc. Ainsworth or from the contact with my squad, or from getting him into custody. He said he was out of breath and said he had difficulty breathing (as is expected from running several blocks)."

The criminal complaint goes on to describe what the dash cam video of Knutson's squad car showed. The description reads, "Officer Knutson's squad appears to proceed up to the apron incline from the road to the apartment complex parking lot. The male is past this incline and entering the grass. At 3 minutes 47 seconds, the front driver's side of Officer Knutson's squad contacts the back of the male. A squad speed was not visible on the camera footage just prior to and during squad contact...The male goes down in front of the squad and momentarily is out of camera view."

A description of what Officer Knutson's body camera showed read in the complaint, "The squad stops and Officer Knutson yells, 'get on the ground.' Footage shows his driver's side window open. He exits his car and approaches the front of his squad where the suspect is now up on his feet. Knutson pushes the suspect to the ground and instructs him to put his arms behind his back. The suspect is laying on his stomach, another officer arrives to assist in the arrest."

When the suspected driver (Sanchez) was in custody, Knutson asked, "So when you ran into my car, you didn't hurt anything did you?" The suspect shook his head no.

The Brown County Sheriff's Office detective reviewing the inside wrote in the complaint, "I did not hear [the suspect] say his leg hurt from running" as Knutson claimed in his report. A recorded conversation when the suspect was in the back of Knutson's squad car sounded like the suspect was breathing hard and lying down. When a sergeant asks the suspect what's wrong, the suspect says, "My leg." The sergeant asks if he pulled a muscle running and the man replied, "He hit me with his vehicle."

Knutson was not booked at the Brown County Jail and has been on paid administrative leave since October 22, 2022.

Records show Knutson is scheduled to make an initial appearance in court on May 17.