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

According to the complaint, Freeman and three step-siblings got off a bus at the corner of Central and 27th Avenue Northeast at about 9:45 p.m. After they crossed the street on their way home, a "gray unmarked car, without its headlights on, pulled up beside them, and the man in the driver's seat leaned over and yelled, 'Do you know I could have hit you?'" Freeman's complaint contends that the man, in street clothes, was Officer Nelson. He allegedly asked Freeman for a state ID and eventually got out of the car and rifled through her purse. According to the complaint, he never identified himself as a police officer.

From there confusion and a scuffle ensued, with Nelson allegedly throwing Freeman, a national honor society student, up against the car and then striking her head against the car door frame while putting her in the back seat. Freeman asked a passerby to go get her father, Flowers. When Flowers arrived, Nelson called for backup, and six squads came to the scene. Shyanna Freeman was eventually handcuffed and taken to Hennepin County jail for fingerprints and mug shots. She was charged with "obstructing legal process" and released, though a city attorney dismissed the citation because "the officer was in an unmarked squad car and obstructing couldn't be proved." (Nelson's personnel and internal affairs files contain no mention of the incident.)

Though Freeman sustained no permanent physical injuries, City Council members got over their misgivings, swallowed hard, and settled with Freeman to the tune of $180,000.

 

James Strickling
The civil complaint of James A. Strickling vs. the City of Minneapolis offers little help in clarifying the events of December 8, 1999. Without providing a storyline, the complaint alleges that Strickling suffered multiple injuries to his chest, neck, back, and groin. He also apparently suffered "severe facial and eye injuries, including the loss of an eye."

The MPD's recitation of the facts of the case states that at 4:40 p.m., Officers Sean McGinty and Mark Bohnsack arrived at 3546 Girard Avenue North on a stabbing call. They arrived to find a party of 12 to 15 people upstairs in the house. One partygoer, Anthony Range, was bleeding profusely from the chest. Range claimed that Sheila Strickling, wife of the plaintiff, had stabbed him. He later changed his story, claiming that James Strickling had stabbed him. Yet Range and the two Stricklings, according to the defendant's statement, refused to come downstairs, away from the party. Soon, three other officers arrived at the scene.

Once upstairs, the officers ordered everyone facedown on the floor, "unsure who the suspect or suspects were, or which of the people present were armed." The MPD's version of events claims that one person at the party said the Stricklings and Range "had consumed vodka, a large amount of beer, and smoked crack cocaine during the afternoon." Thinking James Strickling had a weapon, Officer Andrew Stender attempted to subdue him, which he tried to do by kicking Strickling's feet out from under him. Two other cops got involved as Strickling fell to the ground, hitting his eye on an electric space heater. After a struggle, Stender eventually handcuffed Strickling. The eyewitness claimed Strickling had "jumped" at Stender. (The eyewitness's account was later discredited, on grounds she'd given police a fake name.) Sheila Strickling was arrested for stabbing Range.

Stender, who joined the MPD in March 1992, was suspended in May 2004 for 80 hours, without pay. (The union later filed a grievance and the suspension was reduced to one day.) According to his personnel file, Stender had violated "a procedural code of conduct" by giving out "confidential information regarding prisoners in confinement, suspects in a case, property held, or records of the Department."

The rest of the officers involved have clean records; no officer was disciplined over the Strickling matter. The city settled, handing over $85,000 to James Strickling.

 

John Hagen
On May 23, 2002, Minneapolis police officer William Palmer responded to a call shortly before 11:00 p.m. that reported suspicious activity inside Annunciation School in the Windom neighborhood. Upon arriving, Palmer encountered John Hagen, the school's night janitor. Hagen was just locking up when the squad car pulled up behind him.

According to the civil complaint filed by Hagen in U.S. District Court, Palmer exited the squad car with his weapon drawn and demanded that the custodian clasp his hands behind his head and face the wall. Hagen immediately obeyed and informed the officer that he worked at the school.

Despite Hagen's compliance, according to the complaint, Palmer proceeded to grab Hagen's hands and hair and yank them downward. At the same time he planted his knee in the back of the custodian's legs. The force was sufficient to rip hair from Hagen's head and injure his shoulder, neck, and back.

After requiring Hagen to sit in the squad car for five to ten minutes, Palmer released him. He was never arrested or charged with any crime.

The next day Hagen visited the emergency room at Fairview Southdale Hospital and was found to have a herniated disc in his back and a torn rotator cuff. Over the ensuing months, Hagen alleges in court documents, he incurred $34,000 in medical bills. More than a year after the altercation with the officer, he was still unable to return to his $11.75 an hour job owing to the injuries.

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