Brian Vander Lee, victim of David Clifford's one-punch near-homicide, is home, in bad shape

Vander Lee and his wife.
Vander Lee and his wife.

After two brain surgeries and more than a week in the hospital, Brian Vander Lee is back in his Ramsey home.

Vander Lee suffered a severe brain injury June 16 when his head bounced off the concrete on the patio at Tanners bar in Andover after he was punched by Minneapolis SWAT team executive officer David Clifford. Clifford got upset with Vander Lee because he was allegedly talking loudly on his cell phone and using offensive language while hanging out with friends and family.

According to a Pioneer Press report, Vander Lee has almost no hair left, staples circling his head, and is suffering from short- and long-term memory loss. But he is able to speak slowly, his attorney, Chris Messerly, says.

Vander Lee, who works for the Star Tribune's advertising department and has a wife and four young daughters, "has a long ways to go," Messerly said, adding that the Vander Lee family plans to file a civil suit against Clifford once Brian's recovery is further along.

"Hopefully he will have a good recovery but whenever you cut in to someone's brain there are risks," Messerly said.

Clifford, meanwhile, has been charged with third-degree assault, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison. He bailed himself out of jail on June 19 and remains on paid leave from the MPD. His next court appearance is scheduled for July 19.

Clifford's attorney, Fred Bruno, told FOX 9 there is more to the story than what has been reported so far.

"It didn't come out that [Vander Lee] was highly intoxicated, might have been involved in a punch fest with his brother right in front of the patrons there," he said.  During a court appearance last week, Clifford's counsel said Clifford wasn't drunk when he punched Vander Lee, adding that Clifford threw the fateful punch only because he thought Vander Lee might strike him first.

Previous coverage:
-- David Clifford posts bail, had half a cocktail before delivering near-fatal punch, attorney says
-- David Clifford, alleged sucker-punching Mpls police sergeant, claims self-defense
-- David Clifford, Mpls police sergeant, in jail after nearly killing man with alleged bar sucker punch

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