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Minneapolis cop Efrem Hamilton charged for firing into car of innocent women

Minneapolis police officer Efrem Hamilton's single gunshot has already cost the city $150,000.

Minneapolis police officer Efrem Hamilton's single gunshot has already cost the city $150,000. Star Tribune

The gunshot Minneapolis police officer Efrem Hamilton fired one night in November continues to echo.

Hamilton was called to the scene of a brawl outside a Minneapolis club around bar close on November 19. As he arrived, a car trying to escape the melee crashed into Hamilton's squad car. 

Hamilton immediately exited his car, pulled his gun and fired a single shot at the vehicle -- which, it turned out, contained four young women who had nothing to do with the fight. In fact, they said they'd been instructed to leave the area by another police officer.

Hamilton's shot hit a car door and missed the driver and passengers. That's not to say it hasn't done damage. Hamilton has been on leave since the incident, and earlier this month, the city approved a $150,000 settlement with six people who'd filed complaints against the city and police department.

Tuesday, the consequences focused on Hamilton himself, as Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said the officer would face criminal charges for his actions. Freeman announced the charges in an afternoon press conference, saying Hamilton had pulled the trigger "within three seconds" of getting out of his car. 

"This is unacceptable behavior by a police officer," Freeman said, "endangering the lives of innocent people, and we have filed the appropriate charges."

Those charges: second-degree assault and intentional discharge of a firearm, both felonies. 

Hamilton and other officers had been instructed to look for a dark Cadillac that may have been involved in the brawl and a resulting gunfight. (Two men were later treated for gunshot wounds.) The car driven by the young women was a dark BMW, which backed into Hamilton's police car as it was parked blocking traffic on Third Avenue, near Target Field. 

Freeman noted the accident was minor enough that neither vehicle's airbags deployed.

The assault charge carries a maximum sentence of seven years in prison and/or a $14,000 fine, and the firearm count brings a maximum penalty of a two-year sentence and/or a $5,000 fine.