Another Day in North Minneapolis

Police incident lands an 18-year-old North Sider in the hospital for three days

By Paul Demko and
G.R. Anderson Jr.

On Tuesday afternoon, April 18, James Jones was tending to his north Minneapolis T-shirt shop at the busy commercial intersection of Lowry and Emerson avenues in the city's Hawthorne neighborhood. Shortly before 4:00 p.m., Jones saw a police car pull up onto the curb across the street from his shop.

A group of mostly teenage males was gathered on the sidewalk near the intersection. As soon as the squad car appeared, they scattered. "This is during rush-hour traffic too," notes Jones, recalling the incident a week later. "So cars are everywhere."

Jane Sherman

It soon became clear that the lone officer was after one young man in particular, who initially fled south on Emerson. The young man then doubled back and ran across Lowry. The pursuit quickly came to a halt, eyewitnesses say, directly in front of Jones's storefront on the north side of the street. According to the 40-year-old Jones, whose shop is called 4Gz Clothing, the suspect—subsequently identified as Norman Parker, 18—put his hands in the air. The officer, later identified by an MPD incident report as Jeffrey Binfet, exited the squad car with his gun drawn, ordering Parker to the ground.

But according to Jones and at least one other witness at the scene, the officer kicked Parker in the face as the suspect started to get on his knees. "[Parker] did almost a 360," recalls Jones. The officer then jumped on Parker, who, according to the incident report, was wanted on suspicion of armed robbery. As Jones describes it, the suspect's head hit the pavement at least four times during the fracas and was covered in blood.

"They said the boy was resisting arrest," Jones says with disgust. "The boy couldn't have resisted arrest because he was stupid from the first kick in the face. Understand what I'm saying? He didn't have no marbles or anything."

Denise Parker (no relation to the suspect) witnessed the confrontation from Diamond Nails, a salon next door to Jones's shop, and corroborates much of Jones's account of what happened. "The cop started hitting on him, hitting on him real bad, pushing him into the concrete, and the guy wasn't even doing anything," she recalls. "The guy did what he was supposed to do."

She says the damage to Parker's face was visible and extensive. "He was really bloody, and his face was swollen," she says.

After the initial confrontation with Parker, at least three other officers arrived on the scene. Parker was then placed in a squad car and driven, according to the incident report, to a hospital for medical treatment. As of Monday, he had not been charged with any crime related to the altercation.

News of the incident spread quickly on the street—employees and regulars of the string of businesses near the intersection readily confirm that something happened on that Tuesday afternoon. The next evening, the matter came up at the Police Community Relations Council meeting at the Urban League on the North Side. When community representatives raised questions about the incident, none of the roughly 10 members of the MPD present at the meeting denied that an altercation had occurred. The conversation, in fact, centered on whether MPD brass had been properly notified.

"I didn't get notified until this morning," Deputy Chief Lucy Gerold confirmed at the meeting. "We didn't know until there was some kind of exam, a level of assessment on his condition at the hospital."

PCRC members wanted to know whether Parker was still unconscious, as had been rumored. "He was conscious and was interviewed by investigators last night," Lt. Mike Davis noted. They wanted to know the charge on which Parker had been arrested.

"To my knowledge," Davis responded, "he has not been charged."

Norman Parker, through inquiries with various family members, declined to be interviewed by City Pages. But a trip to North Memorial Medical Center confirmed that Parker had been admitted and treated. In fact, he was not discharged until three days after the confrontation on Lowry, which seems to indicate that he required substantial medical attention.

Interim MPD Chief Tim Dolan has opened an internal investigation into the matter, and concedes that Parker's status was concerning. "He had a medical condition previously," Dolan asserts. The chief claims that Parker's condition worsened after he was admitted to the hospital. PCRC members who visited Parker at North Memorial say that Parker's status at one point changed from "serious" to "critical" because of suspected bleeding on the brain. "[Parker] said he didn't remember anything that happened after a boot came down on his head," says one PCRC member who asked not to be named. "He had concrete burns and bruises on the right side of his face, and his left eye was swollen shut and protruding. You looked at him and you said, 'Damn, he's really jacked up.'"

Dolan says that officers routinely take suspects to the hospital for any physical condition that might prevent someone from being booked into jail. By 10:00 p.m. on that Tuesday, Dolan declared the episode a "critical incident," which means that an investigation is immediately opened and the officer involved is put on three-day paid leave. Binfet was on leave for two days before Dolan decided he could return to work. Dolan says the matter is still being investigated, but notes that Parker has twice been interviewed by the police, and "he had nothing to say."

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