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Little Earth releases video of MPD incident

Whenever police officers are put on paid leave, controversy is sure to follow. The discontent that followed the announcement on Monday that the Minneapolis Police Department had suspended two officers, Lt. Rick Thomas and Lt. Mike Fossum, had little to do with the conduct of the officers, however.

Instead, activists and Little Earth leaders squared off over one issue regarding the arrest of Juan Trinidad Vasquez, a 24-year-old from St. Paul, at the housing complex in south Minneapolis on May 26. Namely, the issue was that Little Earth's executive director, Bill Ziegler, refused to release video of the arrest.

The conflict, which involved two contentious press conferences over the course of two days, was put to rest when Little Earth disseminated DVDs of the incident Wednesday afternoon.

The footage shows what many had been complaining about: that Vasquez appeared to take a blow (AVI 10.1 MB) from an MPD officer while he was walking, handcuffed, with another member of the department.

It also reveals that Vasquez was indeed detained alone in the back of a squad for about 30 minutes--though he was given medical attention (AVI 13.3 MB) by members of the Minneapolis Fire Department and a crew from Hennepin County Medical Center for some seven minutes of that time.

According the the MPD's incident report, filed by Fossum, Vasquez was arrested at 7:09 p.m. that Friday evening. Little Earth's video shows a fight between two individuals (AVI 11.1 MB) breaking out at 6:58 p.m., and in less than a minute two MPD cops break up the incident. A long conversation between one of the fighters and the two cops follows.

The footage also shows that Vasquez had physical contact with an MPD officer--the cop and suspect appear to knock shoulders as they walk toward each other, but Vasquez doubles over and staggers as though he's received a blow in the mid-section, and is held up by the other cop--at 7:12 p.m. Less than 10 minutes later, a squad appears with Vasquez presumably in the back seat.

(There is also footage, not long after the official time of arrest, where Vasquez takes one in the groin courtesy of a waist-high retaining wall while in MPD custody; it's unclear if he was pushed or simply ran into it.)

The squad sits unattended at times, as a crowd gathers and more law enforcement and first responders convene and disperse. By 7:41 p.m., there's no one outside the squad.

By 7:58 p.m., the car is still sitting unattended in a Little Earth parking lot at 25th Street and Cedar Avenue, with only the suspect inside (AVI 9.7 MB).

It's worth noting that the two officers, Thomas and Fossum, did not indicate "use of force" on the incident report. Indeed, the report states that "officers observed the arrested party with a baggie of suspected crack cocaine." It also indicates that Vasquez received "medical treatment" at the scene, while noting no "prior injury."

Fossum also notes on the report "recommendation: further investigation."

The MPD's internal affairs department is reviewing the arrest, and community activists have called on the federal Department of Justice to investigate any wrongdoing. Interim Police Chief Tim Dolan said Tuesday that he hopes a preliminary investigation will wrap by the weekend.

Vasquez remains in the Hennepin County jail for a "narcotics violation." Some footage of the tape is below.