Behind Closed Doors

Stephen Porter may have been humiliated and abused by cops. Or he may be the best thing that's happened to the MPD in a long time.

Porter did not list the house--which has seen 27 police calls in the last year and a half--as his place of residence, but he was familiar to many in the neighborhood.

Later that Monday, sometime around 2:00 p.m., Stephen Porter was on the front porch of the duplex smoking a cigarette. When squad cars pulled up, Porter ran inside. Police followed him upstairs, and they told Porter, along with as many as four others, to lie facedown on the floor, where they were handcuffed.

For the next two hours, anywhere from six to ten Minneapolis cops searched the apartment. And during that time, something appeared to go wrong with the bust. Neighbors told Minneapolis City Council member Don Samuels that they heard hitting and screaming from inside the house. Witnesses inside the house could not see clearly what was going on, but according to people close to those witnesses, they heard at least two officers seclude Porter in a separate room. One claims to have overheard a cop asking for a plunger. And, later, Porter's screams.

For such a lengthy search, the yield was relatively modest. According to police reports, cops seized two wads of cash totaling $269 and a counterfeit $10 bill. They took a digital scale and returned three cell phones and a pager to the woman who rents the unit. They also found two baggies of pot and one bag of what is presumed to be crack, some of it retrieved from the toilet. Not long after 4:00 p.m., police escorted two men out of the house and took them downtown to the Hennepin County Jail. Officer Jeff Jindra booked Porter; the other man was released.

Jail staffers are required to ask any suspect about injuries during booking, and prisoners hurt during arrest are supposed to be taken to Hennepin County Medical Center immediately. But Porter's alleged injuries were apparently overlooked, either by him or authorities--instead, he was placed in a jail cell.

Soon enough, Porter was asking for the jail supervisor, complaining of injury. There were no readily visible bruises or welts. According to one source who has had a meeting with Porter since the arrest, Porter's claims were not taken seriously until he elaborated: He had been sexually assaulted.

In view of the gravity of the allegation, a Hennepin County Sheriff's Office deputy called MPD Chief Robert Olson shortly after 7:00 p.m. Olson put what he calls "a seasoned vet" on the investigation. The Internal Affairs Unit "worked all night," according to Olson, and "gave me a briefing the next morning." Sources who have met privately with Olson say this happened, over the phone, on Tuesday at 4:30 a.m.

"I understood this to be a serious matter," Olson has said. "I've never in my life heard such awful allegations, such an awful thing. I immediately contacted the FBI."

The feds reacted swiftly. By 8:00 a.m. as many as 10 federal investigators had descended on the house and taken over the investigation from the MPD. Internal Affairs officers returned to the county jail to interview Porter. One key point of the investigation remained unclear as we went to press--whether investigators had located the plunger or similar device allegedly used in the attack.

By Tuesday, rumors of the investigation were spreading quickly through the police station and City Hall. Olson had notified Mayor R.T. Rybak of the situation in the late-morning hours; other city leaders knew nothing until as late as 4:00 p.m., a half-hour before Olson's scheduled press conference. By 5:00 p.m., roughly 24 hours after Porter was booked, the announcement that Olson had called in the FBI to investigate an alleged sexual assault by Minneapolis police was all over early evening newscasts.

 

III. The Players

What do we know about Stephen Porter and what do we know about the cops involved in the incident?

First the latter. Jeffrey Jindra joined the force in 1996, after serving as a cop in Brooklyn Park for 12 years. During his tenure in Brooklyn Park, Jindra received one reprimand for using excessive force on a prisoner, along with numerous positive citations. The 43-year-old officer was assigned to the Fourth Precinct in May 2001, following stints in the narcotics and organized-crime units. His personnel file shows no reprimands while on the Minneapolis force.

This past June, however, he was named as a defendant in a lawsuit filed on behalf of Damani Bediako, the 14-year-old grandson of civil rights activist Matthew Little. The suit alleges that the officer choked, punched, and slapped Bediako without provocation. An FBI investigation cleared Jindra, but a federal lawsuit is still pending. And a source close to that case notes Jindra's unusual career trajectory: "Why leave a relatively cushy post in Brooklyn Park and come to the Fourth Precinct?"

Todd Babekuhl, 41, became a Minneapolis cop in 1989 and has been assigned to the Fourth Precinct for the past five years. His personnel file also reveals no disciplinary history. Mark Beaupre likewise has a clean personnel file, and even won the department's Medal of Valor for Bravery in 1997, after he and others were fired upon in a drug raid. More recently, Beaupre, a 13-year veteran of the force, was one of two officers involved in a shootout during a drug raid on a house in the Longfellow neighborhood that left one man seriously wounded in May 2002. Notably, Jindra's file shows that two years ago, he asked for a transfer to the Fourth Precinct specifically so he would work with Beaupre.

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