Friendly Fire

When 12 COPS arrived at Andre Madison's house for a routine drug bust, they wandered into a ferocious gunfight with themselves.

The first police bullet hit Andre Madison straight through his neck. Ripping through the strap muscles between his ear and his collarbone, the 9 mm slug created a 4-inch-by-4-inch wound in his throat, shattered the small bone at the base of his tongue, and tore through another muscle before finally exiting on the right side. But it was the next bullet that would cause Madison greater long-term pain and disability: It entered on the inside of his right forearm, fractured his ulna almost right in the middle of the bone, then travelled down the length of his arm and exited out the side of his pointer finger. Doctors used a surgical plate and seven screws to set the fracture.

Madison was extremely lucky. At least 10 Minneapolis police officers pumped hundreds of rounds into his North Side apartment last November 7, yet he was only hit twice. As Madison lay in a hospital bed at North Memorial the next morning, the incident was prominently featured in both daily newspapers. But the headlines were devoted to Minneapolis Police Officer Mark Lanasa, who had been shot in the neck, treated for bruises, and released. The press accounts speculated at length about the special bulletproof vest that may have saved his life.

All the major media reported essentially the same story, with details provided by Minneapolis Police Department officials: that Lanasa had been met with a shotgun blast as he and his colleagues from the Emergency Response Unit and the Public Housing Authority Unit were raiding a suspected crack house in North Minneapolis. But there were a couple of things wrong with this version of events.

For one, there was no tangible evidence that the house had ever been used to sell crack. The warrant granting the ERU team entry had been obtained by an undercover purchase of marijuana at the duplex. No crack and only a minute amount of marijuana was found during the raid, and no drug charges of any sort were filed against Madison or the other two people who were in the house.

As for the shotgun Madison allegedly discharged at the officers, evidence would later show that it had never been fired that night. When he goes to trial next month, the most severe charge facing Madison will be second-degree assault for pointing the shotgun at the cops. Which would mean that, unless a brand new protagonist is introduced at the trial, Lanasa was shot by his own colleagues during one of the most spectacular fiascos in recent MPD history.

Because of the pending criminal trial, participants on both sides are unwilling to talk about the events of that November night. Nevertheless, numerous documents obtained by City Pages raise troubling questions about the raid and ERU operations in general. Official statements given by the officers involved contain severe inconsistencies and are occasionally contradicted by the physical evidence. In addition, videotapes taken after the raid indicate that the alleged crime scene may have been tampered with in a way that supports the MPD's version of events. The documents also show that concerns about the effectiveness of the ERU were raised numerous times before the raid but went largely unaddressed.

Taken together, the evidence portrays a unit that is overworked, understaffed, inadequately trained, lacking key equipment, strategically lax, ineffective at generating criminal convictions, and hindered by acrimonious infighting. Ultimately, these issues are of greater significance than whether Andre Madison was foolish enough to point a shotgun at a cadre of heavily armed officers raiding his home.

The warrant allowing the cops entry to 2216 26th Ave. N. was obtained by Officer James Novak of the MPD's public-housing unit, who was told by a snitch that marijuana could be purchased there. After Novak used him for an undercover buy at the address, the informant said that a man with a shotgun was sitting in the rear stairwell as a security measure during the purchase. Novak considered the situation dangerous enough to ask a judge for a high-risk warrant, allowing unannounced entry under cover of darkness. The raid was set for November 7; the commanding officer would be ERU Sgt. Robert Kroll.

On the scheduled date, Kroll cased the house while cruising in a marked police car. Then he called a briefing of the 12 officers involved--six each from ERU and public housing--at the MPD's 4th Precinct. Diagramming the target area on a blackboard, Kroll revealed the strategy and set the assignments for the team. The raid would begin with two diversionary "flash bang" grenades being tossed by the side door near the rear stairwell, where the snitch had reported seeing the man with the shotgun. As soon as the grenades were detonated, the six ERU officers would begin ramming through the front doors of the building. Meanwhile, the six public-housing cops who had been pressed up against the side of the house would fan out along the sides and rear of the building and apprehend anyone trying to escape.

The flash bangs went off as planned a few minutes past 8 p.m., and the ERU team members reported hearing gunshots shortly thereafter--though just when is not clear. According to their official statements, Kroll and Officer Scott Kossan heard shots as the team was ramming through the front door. Officers Lyall Delaney and John Bennett said it was when the team was ramming through a second door that led into the apartment from the foyer. For Officer Lanasa, it was after the team had breached both doors.

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