Minneapolis Pays $1.5 Million Settlement To Man Who Accidentally Shot At Cops During George Floyd Protests
from the you're-supposed-to-be-a-public-servant dept
Following the murder of unarmed black man George Floyd by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, the streets of the city erupted in protest. Police responded accordingly. Which is to say indifferently. Rather than rein in the violence that had triggered the protests, many officers felt they needed to make protesters pay for their ungrateful response to racial bias and police violence.
One Minneapolis resident, Jaleel Stallings, found himself caught in the literal crossfire. A Minneapolis PD riot response team patrolled city streets in an unmarked van, hoping to catch rioters in the act or, at the very least, ring up a bunch of people on curfew violations. Stalling’s lawyer — representing him in his criminal case — was able to obtain body cam footage from officers manning the unmarked van that rolled up on his client.
The recordings show cops behaving at their worst, intent on punishing the public for daring to consider its policing efforts inadequate. Officers operating from the unmarked vehicle were firing indiscriminately at anyone caught out in the open, egged on by fellow officers and their direct supervisors.
Before the white, unmarked cargo van of the Minneapolis Police Department drove down Lake Street, an officer gave Sgt. Andrew Bittell his orders: “Drive down Lake Street. You see a group, call it out. OK great! F*** ’em up, gas ’em, f*** ’em up.”
Bittell turned to his SWAT unit in the van and said, “Alright, we’re rolling down Lake Street. The first f***ers we see, we’re just hammering ’em with 40s,” according to body camera footage described in court documents. He was referring to “less lethal” plastic projectiles sometimes called rubber bullets or 40mm launchers or rounds.
This indiscriminate act ended up costing Stallings his freedom. They opened fire on a nearby parking lot, hitting Stallings in the chest. Stallings, understandably (and accurately), believed he was under attack. The lawful gun owner returned fire with his pistol.
Shortly thereafter, Stallings realized he had been shooting at MPD officers. He then did what any responsible citizen would do: he tossed his gun out of his reach and dropped facedown on the ground to await the arrival of officers. In response for his efforts to atone for his mistake (a completely justifiable mistake, at that), Stallings was attacked by MPD officers who kicked and punched him for more than 30 seconds before arresting him on a long list of charges that included second-degree attempted murder. Stallings fought these charges while recovering from multiple injuries, including a fractured eye socket.
The officers lied about Stallings’ actions, claiming he “ran away” and raised a struggle while being handcuffed. The officers never stated — in their reports or statements to investigators — that they had beaten Stallings, even after he had been handcuffed. More contradictions would have followed but the officers were ordered to turn off their cameras nine minutes after the recordings began.
Stallings was acquitted of all charges following a jury trial. He then sued the officers for rights violations. Nearly two years after he was brutalized by thugs looking to inflict violence on people protesting police thuggery, Stallings is getting a payout from the city of Minneapolis.
The city of Minneapolis has agreed to pay $1.5 million plus costs and attorneys’ fees to Jaleel Stallings, an Army veteran who sued the city after being acquitted on the grounds of self-defense after he was charged with shooting at Minneapolis police who first fired marking rounds at him.
The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and the FBI are investigating the incident, which took place five days after the police murder of George Floyd.
The city is spending citizens’ money to make Stallings whole, but it’s unwilling to do without letting itself off the hook for causing the problem and buying its way out of it. Like far too many lawsuit settlements, this one allows the city and the PD to walk away from this without admitting they’ve done anything wrong.
The city will not admit guilt or take responsibility as part of the agreement with Stallings, which still has to be approved by the Minneapolis City Council.
What should be viewed as direct condemnation of the MPD’s actions that night will now be little more than a budget line item. It will be swept away by the passage of time like so many lawsuit settlements before it, allowing the MPD to pretend it’s not the home to several problematic officers, and the city to pretend it hasn’t utterly failed to engage in meaningful oversight of law enforcement agencies that are supposed to answer to it and are obligated to act as public servants.