Not in our Backyard

Uppermost on Scott Paulson's mind the evening of Saturday, March 28, was watching the NCAA Final Four in peace. His younger son was spending the night at a friend's house and his stepson Allen, 15, was in the basement with some friends and a stack of videos. Paulson was working himself up to negotiating possession of the upstairs TV with his wife when she announced that a friend had just bought a house with a hot tub and she was going out for the evening. For a couple of hours the 37-year-old fire-alarm technician actually got to sit in front of the tube, alone save the game.

The Utah Utes had just bested the North Carolina Tar Heels when Allen, who is white, and his friends, who are black, left to drive to the neighborhood McDonald's. Minutes later the kids burst back into the house, screaming as they slammed the door. The All American Boys had chased them home, Allen was yelling.

Paulson dug into him. He was sick of hearing his stepson talk about a supposed white gang that harassed him and his friends at school, at the video store, at the gas station--everywhere in the quiet, north-suburban community where Paulson had spent his entire life. Allen interrupted his rant. "Dad, they're outside," he pointed.

Paulson looked out the picture window in the living room and saw a white Bronco idling by the curb. He opened the door and heard the kids in the truck yelling, "Get the niggers out here." From the front stoop, Paulson says he told them to get lost. Then he went back inside and dialed 911.

Ten minutes later, a convoy of pickups arrived in the tiny, three-house cul-de-sac. As Scott Paulson watched from inside, two of the trucks pulled onto the front lawn so that their headlights and the set of hunting lights mounted atop one of the trucks flooded the living room. All he could see through the glare were silhouettes, some of them holding weapons--a big link chain, a baseball bat, a bottle. He called 911 again.

When the dispatcher asked Paulson his address and other questions he'd answered just minutes before, his amazement turned to anger. "I don't have time for a questionnaire," he snapped before hanging up.

He considered going into the back bedroom and getting a gun. "But then I thought about how many kids there were and how brave. I thought, 'They probably have one, too.' So I made the decision that they're not coming in the house.

"When I stepped out I had five or six of them up on the steps--all with weapons. They were in a semicircle, and the one kid to my right, he has a real big mouth. They're all saying, 'Get those niggers out here, we're gonna kill 'em.' One of them is asking, am I a nigger lover? One of them said they're gonna kick my ass."

Next thing he knew, Paulson says, he was forced to the ground as one of the kids whipped his head with a chain. A baseball bat crashed into the back of his thighs. After that, he says, the kids just kept swinging while he kept listening for sirens. "I was lying there feeling really helpless. Like, 'Oh, this is terrible.' And I was kind of hoping the kids in the basement would help, but knew they wouldn't."

Suddenly his attackers packed up and left. The sheriff's deputies still hadn't arrived, so Paulson went to the bathroom and put a cold rag on his forehead. He went to the kitchen, opened a beer and drained it, and then maybe opened another.

By the time the deputies appeared--some 19 minutes after his initial phone call, sheriff's department records show--Paulson says he was angrier than he'd ever been in his life. "I don't remember positively, but I think my first comment to them was about 'what a couple of useless assholes you are.'" That was the last time anyone from the Anoka County sheriff's office darkened the Paulson family's doorstep.

ASK PEOPLE IN Andover--sheriff's deputies, investigators, parents of Allen Paulson's classmates--about what happened that night, and they'll immediately explain that Paulson, his stepson, and the boy's friends brought the whole thing on themselves. They talk about how the kids allegedly started it all by yelling insults at some older teens at the gas station; how Paulson may have thrown the first punch; how allegedly someone emerged from the house during the fight with a gun. Ask about the tension that for years has been grinding away at this bedroom boomtown--the racial slurs stomped into the snow at the high school, the near-daily fights between white students and kids of color--and they'll tell you that it's all been exaggerated. That just because kids do stupid things doesn't mean that this community has a problem with race.  

In fact, that's how Scott Paulson saw it until that night when his eyes swelled shut, two flaps of his forehead were rejoined by 14 stitches, and his leg stiffened up because of the puddle of blood under the skin of his thigh. In 1998, he assumed, no one would pick on his stepson for hanging out with black kids. Besides, this was Andover, where people moved to put miles of highway between themselves and the tide of youth violence elsewhere. "I'm sick of hearing about it," he'd tell Allen and his wife, who believed the boy.

Unlike the majority of Andover residents, Scott and Deneen Paulson grew up in the neighborhood before it incorporated as a city. Back then the main drag of what was known as Grow Township was lined with junkyards, and most of the surrounding terrain was either swamp or farmland. Both attended Blaine High School before marrying and, in 1994, settling into a home just down the road from Deneen's parents.

By then, Andover had swelled far beyond the rural proportions of the couple's childhood. In 1980, the first census year after the township incorporated as a city, it was home to 9,300 people; by 1996, that number topped 21,500. To this day Andover has no police department of its own (the Anoka County sheriff's department enforces the law), no full-time fire department, and scant public transportation.

And it remains lily-white. At the time of the 1990 census, fewer than 1 percent of Anoka County residents were people of color, and less than 0.2 percent were African American. Many of the people in Andover and the new cities around it--Ham Lake, Ramsey, Coon Rapids, and Maple Grove--have moved there from first-tier suburbs with growing minority populations. It's not uncommon to hear snide remarks about "Brooklyn Dark."

Nor is it rare to hear talk of how there are more students of color than ever at the area's high school, Anoka High. In fact, the percentage of minorities there has hovered around 5 percent for years; it's the total student body that has ballooned since the school was built in 1971. Designed to serve 2,400 kids from northern Hennepin and southern Anoka counties, the school had 2,500 students its first day of class. Within a few years the number hit 2,900 and 10th-graders had to be bused off-campus to temporary classrooms. Next year Principal Craig Rounds expects 3,058 students; by 2000, he'll have to find room for 3,300. Anoka High School is bigger than 85 percent of Minnesota communities--"and [it has] no fire department," Rounds likes to quip.

The school has experienced the occasional flare-up of racial tension for at least five years, says Dean Souter, a district assistant superintendent who served as Anoka High's principal until a few weeks ago. But, he adds, nothing he'd seen or done in his 12-year tenure prepared him to deal with the scene in the school's parking lot at the start of the 1996-97 school year, when a group of some 20 students took to driving in circles waving the Confederate flag.

Souter says he confronted the students, whom neither he nor Rounds will identify, and learned that they called themselves the All American Boys--a name he'd heard from administrators at other campuses and, more ominously, in news reports about a 1996 attack on a Somali teen in Rochester. The students later told police and the school newspaper that Souter came up with the name; other students say seniors involved in the '96-'97 group called themselves the White Knights, while this year's crop sometimes uses the name Stars and Bars.

In October 1996, a front-page story in the school newspaper, the Anokahi, detailed the controversy and several hallway confrontations between the flag-wavers and unidentified students of color. "I'm not racist," the paper quoted Josh Balfany, described as a "ringleader of the All American Boys and a supporter of the Confederate flag," as saying. "I just fly it because it looks cool. I have black friends. I don't want to offend people."

Other kids, like senior Mick Christy, were more belligerent, according to the Anokahi. "'I feel that whites have it more together than other races," the paper quoted Christy as saying. "[African Americans] are the ones causing all the problems in cities and then moving out to the suburbs and causing all the problems out here. I mean, look at Anoka High School. There were no problems before they came."

The paper characterized the fights in the halls as "daily" and suggested that white students would instigate brawls in the hope of getting African-American students expelled under the district's policy of zero tolerance for fighting.  

The tension, Craig Rounds acknowledges, was palpable. "You could feel it in the Commons," he says. "You could feel it like, oh, man, there's gonna be a blowup."

THE BLOWUP ARRIVED in the person of Claigh Knick, a beefy, energetic freshman with a white mother, a black father, and--to hear folks in Andover tell it--a surplus of attitude. The stories circulating in town about Knick--that he carries weapons, "gives gang signs," and boasts of relatives in Minneapolis, according to police reports--are far more ominous than the 16-year-old's appearance. The face underneath his baseball cap hasn't lost its baby fat and looks as if it'd be hard-pressed to glower. His awkward gait, the opposite of a swagger, fits as poorly as his baggy pants.

But for the half of his life he's spent in Andover, Knick (pronounced Kuh-nick)has always stuck out like a sore thumb. For starters, he lives in one of the very few rental properties in Andover with a mother who isn't married, doesn't work outside the home--and, neighbors point out, is overweight enough to have trouble moving around the tiny duplex she shares with her four kids and her 15-year-old daughter's baby.

When Debra Knick moved her family to Andover in 1990, they were among the first people of color to land in the city. "I had kids calling me a nigger lover, nigger bitch," she recalls. Soon her children started saying they were being taunted by other kids: "Go back to Africa, nigger." "I thought, who lets kids talk like that?" she recalls. "I thought this was a nice neighborhood."

It is a nice neighborhood. Most of the lawns on its streets are a manic shade of green and are kept clipped with military precision. The Knicks' grass is interrupted by patches of dirt. Other families are in the habit of opening their garage doors in the evenings and arranging a semicircle of hard, white plastic lawn chairs so that grownups can watch while their kids race up and down the street on all manner of things with wheels. There is no garage at the back of the Knicks' dirt driveway, just an ancient station wagon listing precipitously to one side. Most of the other houses have shutters and tidy borders of annuals. The Knick living room wouldn't accommodate a king-size mattress; the lone front window is the size of a TV screen.

On August 21, 1993, Knick says, someone hurled a rock through that window. She got up, looked outside, and along with the kids saw a cross burning on her front lawn. "It wasn't very big at all, but it looked huge," says Knick. "I just started to cry. I didn't think, 'Oh, they're going to kill me.' I thought, 'How could you burn the cross of Jesus?'" The sheriff's deputies who showed up had to be goaded into dousing the flames, she says. The next morning, a group of kids stood where the 2-foot cross had burned and taunted the family with racial slurs.

Two weeks later Knick went to Anoka County District Court and got a restraining order against two neighborhood boys who she claimed built and burned the cross. Because juvenile court records are private it's impossible to know all of the details of the case, but neighbors say the boys were prosecuted, and pleaded guilty to a minor offense and served a short time in a juvenile corrections facility.

The night they allegedly built the cross, the kids spent some time down the street from the Knicks' at the home of Denise Mitchell, who is the mother of one of their friends. She says neither boy knew the meaning of what they did, and the episode taught them an important lesson. But it definitely wasn't a sign of any ongoing problem.

There have been fights in the neighborhood ever since the Knicks moved in, Mitchell says, but in between altercations everyone gets along just fine; her daughter and Knick's even baby-sit for one another. It's Knick, she adds, who keeps bringing up prejudice. "We'll tell her, '[The kids] could be purple, it doesn't make any difference,'" says Mitchell. "Everything to her is a racist thing and that's the kind of stuff people are tired of hearing." Mitchell says police officers responding to calls in the neighborhood have told her that "the only reason [the Knicks] haven't been run out of town is because of the racist issue."

Lately, though, Mitchell says she has been getting a little worried. For a couple of years, she notes, convoys of trucks belonging to kids who live in other neighborhoods have been menacing the Knick house and scaring the neighbors. After she heard about Scott Paulson's assault, Mitchell says she started worrying about her daughter's friendship with Christi Knick.  

When Claigh Knick enrolled at Anoka High in the fall of '96, the storm cloud that seemed to hover over his neighborhood followed him. Right from the start, he says, he was yelled at, pushed and shoved, or chased on pretty much a daily basis. "They say they like black people but they don't like niggers," Knick explains. "They say they're not racist but they are prejudiced.... Not one day can go by without some little harassment." At first, he says he tried reporting the incidents to his teachers, or to the school's police liaison, Anoka Officer Lee Anderson. The Knicks say the officer didn't take Claigh's complaints seriously. (Anderson didn't return City Pages' calls about this story.)

Unlike other kids who he says have endured similar harassment, Knick decided to fight back. He says his antagonists wanted him to leave school, and he wasn't about to give them what they wanted. "Other kids will take the beating, go home every day with a swollen jaw and black eyes," he says. "The fact is, unless there's all 30 of them, they can't beat me up."

That attitude needled some of his fellow students. "If Claigh wasn't at Anoka, the problem wouldn't be a third as big," says senior Jerad Dixon. "He always just kept it going, he kept pushin' it and pushin' it." As for how things got out of hand, he says, "It's probably touchy because there's so much stuff about how blacks were mistreated and we should start helping them."

Libby Thalin, also a senior, says Knick is a constant troublemaker. Some of her friends think he scratched their car with a key, she says, and wrote AABK on it, short for All American Boys Killers. Knick once kicked her car so hard it dented the wheel well, she claims, conceding that at the time the orange Blazer was displaying a Confederate flag sticker. The flag, she says, isn't racist: "It's a Dukes of Hazzard thing. Besides, my dad bought it for me." (Knick denies provoking Thalin or her friends.) Thalin says she's tired of talking about the problem. "It's always the white kids picking on the poor black kids," she offers mockingly.

Souter says the school tried to address the conflict, but the minute race emerged as an issue administrators were caught in a Catch-22. While families of color and many students didn't feel the school was doing enough, the parents of alleged harassers thought any discussion of race branded their children as bigots. And though most parents were chagrined to hear that their kids had been caught fighting, a few clearly shared the teens' attitudes. "We're dealing with some real hard-core feelings with some of these parents," Souter says, adding that he confiscated slips of paper with unlabeled phone numbers from some of the alleged AABs. A couple of the numbers reached recorded "white-power" messages, he says, but none bore the names of any organization.

Klanwatch, the investigative arm of the Southern Poverty Law Center, tracks the Ku Klux Klan and other extremist organizations. Investigators there say they haven't received any reports about the All American Boys or about new organized hate groups in the Twin Cities. School districts throughout the country have reported kids displaying the Confederate flag, however, and investigators suggest that access to the Internet has made it easier for teens to latch onto the flag, swastikas, and other white-power symbols. Souter, whose job now includes supervising diversity efforts in the school district, says he's fielded phone calls about Confederate flags popping up at schools in Cambridge, Hastings, and Maple Grove.

At Anoka, administrators seeking to calm the tension eventually homed in on changing the victims' response to harassment. "We encourage them to stop, come in, and report it, and we'll help them deal with it," says principal Rounds. "A lot of times they do that, and then the parents say nothing happened [as a result]. True, we didn't expel somebody or punish anybody, but everyone has individual rights and until we have proof we can't do anything."

Rounds, who was an assistant principal before replacing Souter as principal a few weeks ago, says he spent hours trying to convince Claigh Knick not to fight--even fight back. "It's his attitude," Rounds says. "Every time he's here he's in someone's face. It doesn't take much to set him off."

BY THE TIME Anoka High opened for the 1997-98 term, administrators thought they'd done everything possible to get the racial tension under control. They'd held community meetings and sat down with parents. They'd hired their first two African-American staffers--a counselor and a teacher--and created classes with multicultural topics. They'd started a peer mediation program in which students could discuss their differences. They'd even contracted with a consulting firm to hold a retreat for many of the kids who'd been fighting. It had seemed like a watershed, with tears and apologies all around.  

So Souter could barely believe his eyes when, on the first day of school, a number of students showed up in matching orange T-shirts that read "All American Boys" in big blue letters. When the students protested that these were just their senior shirts--traditional garb for the first day of senior year--Souter reluctantly banned senior shirts and any clothing decorated with race-related symbols, including Malcolm X T-shirts and caps.

On September 23, when Anoka's seniors were herded outside for their class picture, teachers noticed that about 20 of the kids lining up by height on the vast lawn were wearing bright orange T-shirts. These shirts had no logo on the chest, but smaller blue letters on the sleeves spelled out AAB or, on the girls' shirts, AAG. Souter ordered the kids to change. They marched off instead, flashing, the Anokahi reported, a "drive-by birdie."

Several parents protested that the students had a free-speech right to wear whatever they chose, says Rounds, but most were aghast to learn that their kids were still trying to wear AAB colors. "Some parents I talked to said, 'I told him not to wear that shirt,'" he says. "One parent said [their child's] grandfather bought that shirt for him, he should be allowed to wear it."

The episode was the last straw for the majority of the student body not caught up in the fighting. A group of some 75 students calling themselves Anoka School Against Racism announced plans for a sit-in in front of the school office. The students wanted Souter to apologize for what they perceived to be his lax approach to the conflict. They claimed the administration had never enforced a district-wide policy mandating expulsion of any student caught in three incidents of racial harassment. School officials won't discuss individual cases, but Souter says he expelled some kids and suspended or disciplined others.

One of the students disciplined repeatedly was Claigh Knick, whose sophomore year had started off badly. His sister Christi, better known as Sis, had enrolled as a freshman and quickly become a target. School had only been open a few days when she found a Confederate flag in her locker. Below the colored-in flag was a little square of black ink. "I hate this color and niggers," someone had written. "Go back to Africa." A few weeks later, she found another flag in her locker, this time bearing a caption advocating a return to slavery. At about the same time Claigh Knick refused an invitation to play varsity football--a rare opportunity for a sophomore--claiming that some kids had said they'd hang him from the flagpole if he played.

Not long after that, Anoka administrators transferred Claigh Knick to Crossroads, the district's alternative school where more than 19 percent of the students are minorities. Rounds says the "sympathetic transfer" was made "for [Knick's] own safety, as well as the safety of others," and that Knick's friends "seem to be able to function within the parameters a lot better now that he's not here." (Sis Knick quit Anoka High in May and also transferred to Crossroads.)

The move outraged Deb Knick. "I said, 'Mr. Souter, you mean to tell me that my kid is responsible for the entire racial problem at Anoka High School?'" she says. "After Claigh left, the problem didn't go away. It got worse." On November 13, four weeks after the transfer, students getting out of their cars and off buses at Anoka were greeted by the season's first sizable snowfall. Into the wet snow, someone had stamped letters several feet high spelling out "die niggers." Credit for the frozen graffiti, the school newspaper reported, "was claimed by the infamous AAB."

Claigh Knick and his friends say the transfer simply meant that the conflict with the AABs moved from the hallways to the street. "They communicate by cell phones and CBs," says Knick. "They get on their CBs and say, 'There's a bunch of niggers at the gas station,' and all of a sudden you hear [trucks] from all over." The worst fight came last March, when Knick and Allen Paulson say a group of teens in a red Chevy truck and another vehicle ambushed them at the local video store. One of the girls they were with ended up with a gash in her hand, which Paulson and Knick say was made by one of the attackers swinging a broken bottle.

Much of their story is confirmed by a clerk who was on duty at the video store that night, but who asked that her name not be used. She says the girls came running inside shouting for someone to call 911. "The cops took forever to get there," she says, and in the meantime the trucks pursued the kids first to one gas station across the street and then to the other. Finally, an ambulance came and "patched the kids up."  

When sheriff's deputies interviewed the kids after the fight at the Paulson house a week later, they said the red pickup had been there, too. One of its passengers had been a "short fat dude" they'd never seen before. He was the one brandishing the chain, they told the officers.

DENEEN PAULSON remembers that the day after her husband was attacked, it rained and she worried the bloody patch on the lawn would wash out before investigators could see it. As it turned out, no one from the sheriff's office ever came to the house. Her husband and the kids were simply asked to give statements on the phone. The alleged attackers, however, were interviewed in person, and their statements to investigators differed radically from those made by Scott Paulson, his stepson, and Allen's friends.

The day after the brawl, Sheriff's Investigator Larry Johnson and Anoka Police Officer Mike Whitaker interviewed three of the alleged AABs identified by Allen Paulson and his friends. Whitaker, Johnson explained in his report, came along because he lived next door to one of the teens and could serve as a "liaison officer." Because that suspect is a juvenile, investigators will not release his name.

The juvenile told the officers that at about 11:30 on the night of the fight, he and four of his friends were sitting in their trucks in the parking lot of the local McDonald's when a carload of kids drove past yelling obscenities. The group decided to "go get them," the juvenile told the investigators, and followed the car to the Paulson house, where they pulled their trucks up onto the lawn. According to the statement, Scott Paulson then came walking over to the Bronco, reached through the window, and hit the juvenile three times. The kids in the trucks headed back to the McDonald's and met up with some friends; the larger group went back to the Paulsons', again pulled up onto the lawn, and shone headlights on the house.

Scott Paulson came outside again, at which point one of the men in the group, Dave Hanle, "acted to defend" the juvenile and fought with Paulson for about three minutes. The unnamed teen said he was carrying a chain but didn't hit anyone with it; the fight broke up, he added, when two unidentified people came out of the Paulson house and leveled a shotgun and a pistol at the group. (Another witness later told the investigators he thought one of those weapons was a Daisy BB gun.)

Hanle, 20, told substantially the same story, saying he hit Paulson after his juvenile friend was slapped, but characterized the fight as "more of a wrestling match." Hanle said he recognized only one person at the Paulson house, a black male who he said often flashed gang signs and harassed him and his friends.

The third witness, Josh Balfany, 19, gave a similar statement, adding that one of the people who came out of the house carrying a gun said, "Go the fuck away," and that he heard someone say, "Shoot the motherfucker." All three said there were no more than five trucks at the scene.

The officers asked Hanle why, if someone at the Paulson house threatened them with guns, the kids in the trucks didn't call the police. "I really couldn't tell you," he said. "We just left, called it a night and went home. I guess I thought I got my--our--point across that this has gone far enough, because I'm so sick of it now it was just out of pure anger, and defending my friends. 'Cause my friends are everything to me." Both Hanle and Balfany refused to comment for this story.

Captain Len Christ, head of the Anoka sheriff's criminal investigations unit, says the incident has been blown out of proportion. He dismisses suggestions of gang activity. "There's no one out there who publicly identifies or expresses themselves as an All American Boy. They don't wear a particular color or act in a specific manner.... When I was in high school we had the Baldies and the Greasers--two different groups who antagonized each other and sometimes got into disturbances." Christ says his office hasn't handled any complaints about fights involving the alleged AABs and Knick's friends except for the brawl at the Paulson house. "I've heard of their existence for as much as a year," he says. "But it seems to have been more a school problem than a law-enforcement problem."  

IN 1996, ACCORDING to state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension figures, 207 of the 286 bias crimes reported in Minnesota were motivated by race. The next largest number, 55, were motivated by sexual orientation. Nearly 12 percent of hate incidents reported between 1990 and 1995 occurred on or near school grounds, according to the state attorney general's office. More than 65 percent of reported incidents are committed by youths ages 11 through 20. According to a 1993 Northeastern University study, the majority of hate crimes nationwide are committed by young men against people of other races, usually strangers.

But officials in Anoka bristle at the suggestion that the alleged attack on Paulson, or any of the incidents in and around Anoka High, should be included among those statistics. Christ says whomever is charged in the Paulson incident will not face the stiffer penalties state law provides for crimes motivated by bias. "We're not looking at this as a hate-crime thing," he says. "We're looking at it as youth acting up in a very inappropriate and disturbing manner."

There's a fine line, he adds, between free speech and harassment. "To say [a racial slur] is not a prosecutable offense. To engage in a continuous assault of phone calls and harassment--if that's the case, if they want police involvement, then they need to call us in a timely manner so we can intervene," he says, adding that his office hasn't been asked to investigate any such pattern.

That's news to Deb Knick, who says she's placed dozens of calls to police in recent years to report caravans of teens in trucks and 4-by-4's pulling up on her street, yelling racial slurs and demanding that Claigh come out and fight. She says sometimes police have come out to see what was going on, but they never investigated further.

Christ says he knows nothing about Knick's complaints. He also says he hasn't heard about Zona Adams, a white woman who for two years has lived across the street from the Knicks with her kids and sometimes with their father, who is black. Adams says that the older two of her three kids are harassed on a regular basis, and that her 13-year-old daughter gets picked on at her middle school. "Someone wrote 'AAB' on her desk, and 'AAB kills niggers' on her folder."

Adams says she's called police repeatedly to report harassment; once, last summer, she reported that a caravan of 10 cars full of kids carrying baseball bats was driving back and forth between her house and the home of an African-American friend. That time, she says, the officers told her to stay in the house and she wouldn't get hurt. Bats aren't illegal weapons, they advised.

She called back in March to report that several kids were punching Claigh Knick in front of her house. And about two weeks before the fight at the Paulson house, she turned in a metal swastika she found on her doorstep, and showed an officer the words "fuck you" carved into her front door.

"The police said, 'Let's hope that's the end of it,'" she says. "And I said, 'Do you honestly think it's the end or the beginning?' He said, 'I think it's the beginning. No one's gonna be happy 'til someone's hurt or killed.'"

There are others who say Anoka County's criminal justice system isn't very good at spotting racial bias--or acknowledging its own. Six months ago, Anoka County Public Defender Kelly Madden, who is white, was assigned to represent William Manuel, a black man charged with aggravated robbery in Anoka County District Court. According to legal documents, in October 1997 Manuel allegedly approached a white couple in the parking lot of a Timber Lodge Steakhouse in Spring Lake Park and asked them for money or a ride. When he reached behind his back they thought he was going for a weapon, so they wrote him a check for $15. Hours later they called 911, and five separate police departments began looking for Manuel.

The next day, acting on a tip, four Spring Lake Park officers--one of them the police chief--apprehended an African-American man at a sports bar. Even though the man had identification showing that his name was not the one on the check the couple had written, the police held him until they could verify his alibi and see if the victims could identify him.

Before Manuel's case went to trial, Madden told the prosecutor that she'd arranged for Mike Holland, a Hennepin County public defender who is African American, to serve as co-counsel for Manuel. According to an ethics complaint Madden and Holland later filed with the state Lawyers Professional Responsibility Board, the county attorney's office responded by asking the judge to prohibit Madden from raising any racial issues at trial, and from having "a person of color as co-counsel for the sole purpose of playing upon the emotions of the jury." After Madden complained, the motion was amended to omit the second request, but it still asked that Madden be barred from talking about race. The case was ultimately forwarded to Hennepin County, where prosecutors dismissed the charges against Manuel. The $15 check was never cashed.  

Madden says after she filed the ethics complaint, she got calls from attorneys and others who work in Anoka's criminal justice system suggesting she was being "ungracious" and "overly sensitive." "They don't want to be seen as racists, they're not comfortable with that," says Madden, who adds that in addition to an Asian victim's advocate, "the only person of color in the courthouse is in the file room."

TWO MONTHS AFTER he was attacked, Scott Paulson got a call from sheriff's investigator Ed Egly, who said he needed to ask some more questions for the city attorney. He wanted to know whether Paulson had approached the cars that followed the kids home from McDonald's. No, Paulson said. Did he hit any of the occupants? No again. Were there guns in the house? A couple of shotguns and a deer-hunting rifle, Paulson said. (Paulson says he was too injured to see how the attack ended. Allen Paulson and his friends deny using guns to scare off the assailants.)

Egly wanted to know if he'd been drinking. Yes, Paulson said, and the officer should have known that since medical records showed that at the emergency room he'd blown into a Breathalyzer so doctors could decide whether to give him painkillers. The records also showed that the physicians determined Paulson was unimpaired.

It didn't take long for the Paulsons to conclude that Scott was going to be blamed for the attack. Deneen Paulson cites a conversation with Egly a few days after the incident; she says he told her that "whatever my son gets, he brings on himself. I asked if anyone had been arrested and he said no, and no one's going to be arrested." Egly also suggested, she says, that Allen Paulson had aggravated his stepfather's attackers.

"Let's say the kids were assholes, that they went up to McDonald's and did yell out the windows," she says. "For them to come here with weapons--even if [her son] asked for it--there's no reason to come here and do bodily harm to someone."

In his report on the case, Egly noted that he'd had several conversations with the mother of the unnamed juvenile suspect. She and her son wanted Paulson prosecuted for assault. A decision was still pending at press time, but records indicate that the city attorney was asked to consider charging both David Hanle and Scott Paulson with fifth-degree assault and disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor punishable by up to 90 days in prison and a fine of up to $750. The juvenile was also expected to face the same charges, although his case will be reviewed by the county attorney. If the case were charged as a felony--if the investigator had considered Paulson's injuries "substantial," or had deemed the chain a "dangerous weapon," Hanle could have faced up to 10 years imprisonment and a fine of up to $20,000.

The prospect of only minor charges angers Scott Paulson, who says he's badgered the mayor of Andover about the matter. "I told him summer's coming and they better do something about these kids. He said they'd had a meeting about that and if they so much as spit on the sidewalk, we'll lock 'em up." They should, he adds. "If this group of kids comes to my house again, [deputies] better bring body bags, because this won't happen to me again."

Paulson's stepson and Claigh Knick, for their parts, don't expect this summer to be any different from last year's, except more lonely. Their clique of friends used to number about 15 kids, but in the past two years many of the African-American families in town have moved away. For a while it was just the two of them and their friend Mark, dividing their time between the neighborhood gas station and the Paulsons' modest in-ground swimming pool.

One week after school let out, Mark moved to join his family at their new house in a western suburb. His mother, who asked that neither her name nor her son's full name be used in this story, says the family spent a year struggling with the idea of moving. None of them wanted to leave Andover, she says, but in the end she grew convinced that there was no other way to guarantee her kids' safety. "You just can't have that, where people are banging on your door and your kids are afraid to ride their bikes around the neighborhood for fear someone will knock them off--just because they're there."  

Mark's mother says she had plenty of supportive friends in Andover. But in the end, "they weren't enough to go over the head of the good-ol'-boy system." She's fought for civil rights her whole life, she says, "and my grandparents for their whole lives and my parents for theirs. It's just that I had hoped my grandchild wouldn't have to."

Claigh Knick doesn't think any amount of fighting will make a difference--or that the pressure would lift from his life even if the All American Boys disappeared. "There's nothing we can do about it," he says. "It's just something we gotta deal with."

News intern Erik Farseth contributed research for this story.

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