MPD Officer Blayne Lehner named in misconduct lawsuit; Mpls settles for $85k

Officer Blayne Lehner pepper spraying protesters at an Occupy demonstration.
Officer Blayne Lehner pepper spraying protesters at an Occupy demonstration.
Youtube screenshot.

The Minneapolis City Council approved an $85,000 settlement Friday for a lawsuit that alleges several police officers entered a home without a warrant in September 2011, where at least one repeatedly stomped a 19-year-old on the kitchen floor.

According to the suit, Officer Blayne Lehner rendered Mauricio McKinney unconscious by kicking him in the torso and head, ultimately sending him to the hospital with a swollen jaw, facial laceration, and a hematoma in his cheek.

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"This is the kind of case that helps protect everyone's right to be free from unreasonable searches in their house," says Ryan Vettleson, McKinney's attorney. "And it does so by reminding officers of the limits of their authority to enter absent a warrant or exigent circumstances."

This isn't the first time Lehner has been accused of abuse. Earlier this fall, we wrote about a video published to Youtube that appeared to show Lehner choking and pepper spraying protesters at an Occupy rally, though it's hard to tell what prompted Lehner's actions. The footage also identifies Lehner as the officer who allegedly assaulted a KSTP camera man in downtown Minneapolis earlier this year.

By settling the case, the city does not admit guilt. In a statement, City Attorney Susan Segal says officers often have to make "split-second decisions to protect the public."

"That's why the police department is constantly working to train officers and prepare them to react in dangerous situations, with the goal of keeping both the public and officers safe," says Segal. "This settlement will allow the city to resolve this case and move forward."

According to the civil suit, this is how the incident played out:

Around 4 p.m. on Sept. 13, 2011, officers Lehner, Terry Nutter, and Jason Case were searching for a suspect carrying a gun near the corner of East Franklin and South Chicago avenues. (Note: Vettleson says Case may have been incorrectly identified, and would have likely been dropped from the suit had it gone forward). The search brought them to the lower-level duplex of Reva Bearstops, a friend of McKinney's.

The officers knocked on the door, announced their presence, "but waited only moments before kicking in the front door," and Bearstops didn't have time to let them in. The officers stormed in without a warrant, and ordered everyone to get on the ground.

Before McKinney could drop to the kitchen floor, Lehner knocked him down and began kicking him, while one of the officers yelled something like, "That's what happens when you run from the cops."

When McKinney regained consciousness, he was in handcuffs, profusely bleeding from the face. McKinney was later taken to Hennepin County Medical Center and treated for his injuries.

No one at the duplex that day was charged with a crime.

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