The Hit Parade Revisited

In an age of shrinking budgets, the city of Minneapolis is spending more money than ever to settle lawsuits against the MPD

 

Gayna Wiggins was returning home from the bank on October 18, 2002 at about 10:30 a.m. Traveling south on Penn Avenue, near Hawthorne Avenue, she executed a U-turn and pulled up in front of the house that she shared with her then-75-year-old mom, Rayma. Very shortly afterward, a white car pulled up behind her and a heavyset, white-haired man climbed out of the vehicle. According to court records, the man allegedly began banging on Wiggins's car window and screaming obscenities at her.

Unbeknownst to her, the man was not just any road-rager. He was homicide detective Phillip Hogquist, who routinely worked plainclothes and drove an unmarked squad car. Despite Wiggins's inquiries, the man did not identify himself. When he withdrew to his own car, she jumped out of hers and ran toward the house yelling for her mother. She got hold of a phone and called 911 with the man's plate number. It was then that Wiggins learned that the man she was dealing with was a police officer. Wiggins claimed that she then went to apologize to Hogquist, who allegedly responded by chasing her around the vehicles and calling her a "black bitch."

Shortly afterward, uniformed officer Michael Chiapetta arrived on the scene. He corralled Wiggins and placed her in the back of a squad car. Around this time, 75-year-old Rayma Wiggins approached the scene to find out what was happening. When she got close to the squad car where her daughter was being kept, Hogquist suddenly charged the old woman and shoved her to the sidewalk--"like a linebacker," in the words of Rayma Wiggins's attorney, Jeffrey Hassan. (Hogquist claimed in court documents that he shoved Wiggins because he was afraid the grandmother and retired schoolteacher would get hold of Chiapetta's gun.)

Gayna Wiggins was arrested and taken to jail. She was released the next day and never charged with any crime. Rayma Wiggins was taken to Abbott-Northwestern Hospital. Ultimately, she would need hip-replacement surgery, purportedly as a result of injuries sustained in the incident. The formerly active septuagenarian is now largely a shut-in and requires a walker to get around.

Hogquist, a storied figure in the MPD, was commonly known to colleagues as "Boss Hog." His personnel file records some colorful behavior during his more than two-decade career. In 1983 Hogquist was issued a letter of reprimand for firing his weapon--off-duty--at Hidden Beach on Cedar Lake while intoxicated. It notes that he sought treatment for chemical dependency the day after the incident. Hogquist was issued another letter of reprimand in 1986 for calling a woman a "fucking bitch" while responding to a domestic dispute call. The next year, he was again chastised for using vulgar language while interacting with a citizen. Finally, in 1991, Hogquist received another reprimand for failing to follow orders and dispersing confidential personnel information without permission.

Two eyewitnesses, both of whom are white, corroborated the Wigginses' version of events. The Wigginses filed a lawsuit in Hennepin County District Court in October 2003.

Attorney Hassan was surprised that the city didn't settle the case prior to trial. "If you see a 75-year-old grandmother who's been assaulted, it doesn't matter what your background is, you're going to feel sympathy and outrage for that person," he notes.

The jury awarded a total of $355,775.83 in damages in March 2005, the bulk of it for the injuries and medical bills incurred by Rayma.

Hogquist, however, is one officer who won't be costing the city any money in the future. He retired from the MPD in January 2003, and now lives in Texas.

A case-by-case recounting of some of the more expensive recent adventures of the MPD

How to Spend Millions Settling Lawsuits

By G.R. Anderson Jr. and Paul Demko

On 17 occasions in the past five years, the city of Minneapolis has paid out more than $50,000 in a single case to settle claims of police misconduct. City Pages examined the court records associated with 14 of these cases, as well as the personnel files of the officers involved in the incidents. (The officers involved were given the chance, through MPD spokesman Ron Reier, to comment. The only one who responded was Officer William Palmer.) The following narratives, culled from these public documents, are a sampling of the types of altercations that end up costing the city significant amounts of money.

 

Shyanna Freeman
In December 2003, the Minneapolis City Council was weighing a settlement in Shyanna Freeman's lawsuit against the city. There was more than a little reticence, since Freeman is the daughter of Alfred Flowers, who has had numerous high-profile run-ins with the police. Additionally, Alisa Clemons, sister to Flowers and Freeman's aunt, was a former Minneapolis cop who had won two separate six-figure discrimination suits against the department. Freeman herself contended that she had been roughed up by several Minneapolis cops, including Officer Gary Nelson, late on July 19, 2001, when she was 17 years old.

This history prompted council member Barbara Johnson to utter disdainfully, "It seems we have a family business going," while the council pondered a settlement figure. But regardless of where the Flowers/MPD feud started, the civil complaint filed in U.S. District Court offers a glimpse at some puzzling police behavior.

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