Minneapolis mayor: Police conduct in ’20 unrest is ‘galling’

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Newly released video that shows Minneapolis police officers talking about “hunting people” during unrest following the death of George Floyd has become an issue in the upcoming citywide election as Mayor Jacob Frey seeks a second term and residents decide if they want to replace the police department with a new agency.

Frey said the body camera footage that also shows officers kicking and beating a man who had surrendered is “galling,” the Star Tribune reported.

“We need to make sure justice is done,” the mayor said, without explaining how.

Some of Frey’s challengers and some City Council members who say Frey should have done more to control the department were quick to criticize.

“He can act right now and take the necessary steps to make it clear that this violent, toxic culture is unacceptable and must be held accountable,” candidate Kate Knuth said in a statement. “Instead of providing steady leadership and answers, we have a Mayor who is fighting to uphold the status quo that has gotten us here.”

City Council President Lisa Bender tweeted: “Also galling is spending the last year sweeping this violent behavior under the rug.” Bender went on to say that zero officers have been disciplined. The city’s website says that in 2020 and 2021, one officer was terminated, one resigned in lieu of suspension, one officer was suspended and dozens received letters of reprimand.

The incidents captured on the body camera video happened on the night of May 30, 2020, and into the early hours of May 31, five days after Floyd was killed and two days after rioters burned a Minneapolis police station.

Officer Garrett Parten, the police spokesman, said this week that an internal affairs investigation is underway and he declined further comment. Frey told the Star Tribune that he feared discussing the issue would jeopardize the investigations.

“There is no one that has more incentive to dish on the discipline or terminations underway than me, but there are clear laws stating that if I do our ability to hold officers accountable would be gone,” he said. “I’m not willing to trade away what could be a clean disciplinary or termination decisions for political points.”

The video footage comes in the case of Jaleel Stallings, 29, who was acquitted on multiple charges after he shot at officers who fired a 40 mm “marking round” at him from an unmarked van. Details of Stallings’ case and footage from his arrest were first reported by the online digital news outlet Minnesota Reformer, and Stallings’ attorney released footage to other media this week.

The footage shows police firing marking rounds, also known as rubber bullets, at protesters and bystanders without warning and exchanging fist bumps as they sought to enforce a citywide curfew.

The footage shows Stallings, who had a permit to carry a firearm, crouched behind a pickup truck in a parking lot. At 10:53 p.m. an officer fired a marking round at Stallings, hitting him in the chest. Stallings testified at trial that he thought he was being attacked by civilians and was hit by a bullet. He fired three shots toward the van as a warning, then took cover. He surrendered when he realized he had fired at police, said his attorney, Eric Rice. No officers were hit.

Nearby surveillance footage shows Stallings immediately lie on the ground. Then Officer Justin Stetson and Sgt. Andrew Bittell punched and kicked Stallings, who did not resist.

Additional footage from Officer Joseph Adams’ body camera shows he told Cmdr. Bruce Folkens that it was a “busy night.” Folkens said, “You guys are out hunting people now, it’s just a nice change of tempo. … (Expletive) these people.”

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