David Clifford's one-punch near-homicide: The surveillance footage [VIDEO]

Clifford now faces up to 20 years for nearly killing Vander Lee with a single right hook.
Clifford now faces up to 20 years for nearly killing Vander Lee with a single right hook.

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

Minneapolis Police Sgt. David Clifford is now facing first-degree assault charges in connection with the near-fatal punch he landed on Brian Vander Lee during the afternoon of June 16 on the patio of Tanner's Station in Andover.

Though Clifford was initially charged with third-degree assault -- a charge with a maximum penalty of five years in prison -- Anoka County prosecutors have now upgraded the charge against him to first-degree assault. If he's convicted, he could spend 20 years in prison.

According to the Star Tribune, Anoka County prosecutor Blair Buccicone cited the severity of Vander Lee's injuries as the reason Clifford's charge was upgraded. Vander Lee was placed on life support and needed two brain surgeries in the hours following the alleged assault.

"If there hadn't been intervention, Brian Vander Lee likely would have died," Buccicone said. Though he's been home since late last month, Vander Lee needed a third brain surgery on July 4 after an earlier incision erupted, causing an infection.

Meanwhile, surveillance footage of the one-punch near-homicide has surfaced. Here's a FOX 9 segment with the video and some analysis of what it tells us about the Clifford-Vander Lee incident:

Though the video appears to show Clifford, off duty at the time, sucker-punching Vander Lee, Clifford's attorney, Fred Bruno, argues the footage actually exonerates his client. After watching the video numerous times in slow motion, Bruno told the Strib that he sees Vander Lee moving his left arm before the punch. "Bruno said he is convinced that Vander Lee took the first swing," the Strib reports.

In an interview with FOX 9, Bruno said Vander Lee's blood-alcohol level at the time of the incident was .189, suggesting the incident was instigated by an out-of-control patron who paid no heed to Clifford's request to quiet down and stop using profane language.

Clifford will be back in court tomorrow to be arraigned on the new charge.

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