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Rickia Russell wins $1 million police brutality settlement after burns from flashbang grenade

The flash-bang grenade caused third-degree burns to Rickia Russell's calf.
The flash-bang grenade caused third-degree burns to Rickia Russell's calf.

At around 8:30 p.m., two days after Valentine's last year, Rickia Russell was at her boyfriend's home. It was a week after her birthday, and they were settled in for the night with a friend. They drank vodka and dug into a steaming pot of jambalaya.

The apartment, at 5753 Sanders Drive in south Minneapolis, wasn't exactly a luxury building. Drug dealers used the lobby as their office. So when Russell heard footsteps pounding down the hallway, she didn't think much of it.

Suddenly, she heard a loud boom. The front door of the apartment swung open. Cops holding a battering ram stood in the gap. An officer in a helmet, goggles, and riot gear stood at the threshold. He looked right at her and, with an underhanded toss, lobbed a flash-bang grenade.

"Something's wrong," Rickia Russell said. "It feels like my legs are on fire. My legs are burning."
"Something's wrong," Rickia Russell said. "It feels like my legs are on fire. My legs are burning."


An explosion ripped through the apartment. Smoke filled the air. The back of Russell's legs felt hot and wet.

"Get on the ground!" an officer commanded.

Russell lay flat as more than a dozen cops flooded the room. One of the officers tied Russell's arms behind her with plastic cuffs.

"Something's wrong," Russell said. "It feels like my legs are on fire. My legs are burning."

A cop came over and shined a light on the back of Russell's legs.

"Oh, fuck," he said. "We have a problem. Someone call an ambulance."

Doctors had to use flesh from Rickia Russell's scalp for the skin graft for her calves.
Doctors had to use flesh from Rickia Russell's scalp for the skin graft for her calves.


Doctors immediately placed Russell in Hennepin County Medical Center's burn unit. They flushed her bloodied legs with saline to remove shards of the grenade. Both her calves had been eaten by third-degree burns from the flash-bang, which burns at 3,800 to 4,200 degrees.

Remy was shot and killed by Minneapolis police in front of the couple's daughter, splattering her with blood.
Remy was shot and killed by Minneapolis police in front of the couple's daughter, splattering her with blood.

Minneapolis cops poured through Keten's front door. Her husband, James, was in the living room, with their other dog, Kano.

Bang! A gunshot rang out, and Kano went down in a heap.

"Get down on the floor!" the officers yelled.

"Can I get my dog?" Aisha asked.

"Get down!"

Shots rang out again. Remy, who was in the kitchen, fell to the floor. The Ketens' four-year-old was sitting at the kitchen table, and blood spattered her pajamas and her Dora the Explorer coloring book.

Kano was also shot and killed by police.
Kano was also shot and killed by police.

"Why'd you do that to my dogs?" James asked.

"Shut the fuck up, nigger," an officer allegedly responded, which the city disputes. "They deserved it."

The cops, in riot gear, tore through the house. They turned over the beds and dumped out the contents of Aisha's designer purses. The cops stayed for 15 minutes, but found nothing.

The MPD had a warrant to search the Ketens' home, at 2405 Humboldt Avenue North. They were supposed to be looking for James's brother, although he no longer lived there.

The warrant required police to knock on the door and announce their presence. But the cops didn't do that, according to a lawsuit.

"Another big whiff, where they don't knock and announce, and they don't discover any evidence," Paul Applebaum, the Ketens' attorney, says of the police. "They just come in and shoot up the place, beat people up. They don't find anything, and then they just leave."

 

It was a hot July day in Minneapolis, so hot that Darrell Williams stripped off his clothes right after he got back from fishing. He went to the upstairs of his home just south of Powderhorn Park, and enjoyed a summer pleasure: an afternoon nap in his underwear.

Darrell Williams eye was swollen after police bashed his face with the butt of a gun.
Darrell Williams eye was swollen after police bashed his face with the butt of a gun.

But none of that seemed to matter.  The cops hog-tied Williams. They smashed him in the head with the butt of a gun and kicked his ribs.

For about 20 minutes, the cops searched Williams's house. They took one item: a piece of mail addressed to Tierre Caldwell. And then, without so much as an apology, they left.

The cops had a warrant to search the Williamses' home, but were supposed to knock before coming inside. They didn't do it, according to court documents.

"By all objective accounts, they did not follow the guidelines of the warrant, meaning they did not knock and announce before they entered--they just blasted through the front door," argues Applebaum, who represents the Williams family. "To go into a home where you violate the warrant, and shoot guns at an animal, is grotesque."

Last May, the Williamses sued the MPD and the city of Minneapolis for not obeying the "knock and announce" rule of the search warrant. In November, the city settled for $25,000.

"Here's the people who are supposed to protect you and help you," Darrell says. "You know, I respected them before. But now--to this day, there's no feelings for them, because of what they did to me, and my dog, and my family."

Previous Coverage:
* Minneapolis pays $190,000 to settle police brutality case
* Police brutality costs Minneapolis some serious cash
* The Hit Parade Revisited


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