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ST. PAUL, Minnesota (AP) -- Police said they are investigating an incident in which an officer pepper-sprayed an 85-year-old man during a traffic stop.

Leon Nins said officer Michael Lee also beat him after he took too long to stop his car. Police deny that and say Nins attacked Lee.

Leaders of St. Paul's NAACP chapter and St. Paul African American Leadership Council alleged that race was a factor. Nins is black.

Nins said at a news conference Thursday that he was bringing sandwiches and cupcakes to his wife during his daily visit to her nursing home December 27 when Lee tried to pull him over for having expired license tabs.

Nins, a World War II veteran who stands about 5-feet-7 and weighs 145 pounds, claims Lee was angry that he didn't stop his car right away.

"I told him, 'If I'd have seen you, I would have stopped,"' Nins said earlier. "He got really mad about that. He told me to get in his car, and he started beating me on the leg and on the side of the arm. He pushed me down on the floor, and he was slamming the door on my legs."

Nins was arrested and jailed for two days. The Ramsey County Attorney's Office declined to charge him with a felony, but prosecutors still could bring a lesser charge.

Nins said he went to a hospital for treatment after his release.

Police reports said Nins did not stop for nearly a half mile after Lee began trying to pull him over.

St. Paul police Chief John Harrington confirmed that Lee used pepper spray to subdue Nins, but only after Nins refused to produce identification and began flailing at the officer.

"I do not believe (Lee) was acting with excessive force and I don't have any intention of suspending him or moving him to any administrative assignment at this time," Harrington said.

Groups who claim that race played a role cited a 2001 shooting in which Lee was cleared of wrongdoing. Charles Craighead had taken a gun from a man trying to carjack him. Lee mistook Craighead, who was black, for the carjacker, and shot him to death.
 
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