The way Michael Griffin tells the story, he's Chuck Norris, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, and Assassin's Creed's Edward Kenway in one package.
Griffin has spent his summer under federal indictment and suspended from the Minneapolis Police force. In May, the U.S. Attorney's Office charged the eight-year MPD veteran with nine counts relating to alleged civil rights violations that took place during a pair of violent incidents dating back to 2010 when Griffin was off-duty.
He's pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Griffin is accused of essentially being an ass. He allegedly beat people up because he could, then hid behind the protection afforded by his venerated badge.
During an early morning in November almost four years ago, Griffin finished his shift and made his way to The Loop. It was past midnight as he made his entrance at the popular destination on North Washington Avenue.
According to Griffin's testimony given during a 2013 internal affairs hearing, the policeman was accosted by a quartet of inebriated men soon after his arrival.
"Get the fuck out of my zone!" one said, according to Griffin. "… You heard me.… You want me to kick your ass?"
Griffin, in plain clothes and not wanting any trouble, he says, flagged down a bouncer. "Hey, I'm a cop," he reportedly told security. "You got some guys over here trying to start a fight with me.… You might wanna get 'em outta here."
The bouncer confronted the men, according to Griffin, but they weren't hip to playing nice.
"You're a fucking faggot cop," one allegedly told Griffin.
"Hey, I'm by myself," the bouncer reportedly told Griffin. "They're not listening to me. I gotta go get my partner."
The belligerent guys vacated the place. Griffin chilled, thinking the situation was working itself out.
"Of course, I'm not in the mood anymore," Griffin testified. "So I'm like 'Oh, fuck it.… I'm just gonna leave.'"
That's an unwise idea, the bouncer informed him. Those guys are waiting for you outside.
Griffin phoned Officer William Gregory.
"If it came down to it and they put their hands on me, of course I'd try to defend myself," Griffin testified. "But I'm thinking I'm 36 years old. I'm not trying to fight in a club. I wanna go home."
When his unformed partner arrived, Griffin wanted to be escorted to his vehicle.
"They see a guy in uniform," Griffin said, "they're gonna be like, 'Oh, we're not gonna do anything.'"
But the foursome grew more hostile upon Gregory's appearance, Griffin claimed. "I don't give a fuck if you call the cops," one supposedly declared. "We'll kick your ass anyways."
Gregory grabbed the aggressor and started ushering him to the squad car, said Griffin. Another man, "the tall guy," shadowed the action.
"[My partner] knows I'm not gonna do anything unreasonable. So I'm like [to the tall guy], 'Dude, stay back!'" Griffin testified. "… So I keep walking.… He slaps my hand away and I reversed it, and I got behind him and I just put him in a restraint."
Gregory ran a check on both men. Nothing outstanding came back.
"They're clear," Gregory said, according to Griffin.
Gregory and Griffin then agreed to release them.
A half block away from the nightclub and minutes later, Griffin had walked to his car. Once inside, he eyed one of two recent detainees.
"Let's get him now," one declared, according to Griffin. "Let's get him now, man. We'll kick his ass."
Little did the eager combatants know they were dealing with the MPD's version of Steven Seagal.
"I give [one guy] a foot jab," Griffin testified. "I turn. The other guy swings at me. I duck. I sweep his feet out from underneath him. He falls. He jumps back up. We exchange punches. We hit each other. He falls back down again. As soon as he tries to get up again, I kick him in the face. He falls down. He hits his head. Done deal."
But according to the U.S. Attorney's Office, the night actually went much differently.
At The Loop that night, IT salesman Jeremy Axel says he asked Griffin to scoot over so he could join his friends.
Griffin allegedly refused, telling Axel's party he had the pull to oust them from the bar.
A bouncer commandeered by Griffin escorted Axel and his friends out. Griffin followed as Gregory pulled up in a marked car.
Griffin reportedly told Gregory to take Axel's friend, Matthew Mitchell, into custody. Another Axel friend, Keyon Cooley, asked Griffin where he was taking Mitchell.
After both were cuffed, Griffin allegedly proceeded to strike Mitchell in the chest, knocking him to the ground. When Axel attempted to intervene on behalf of his fallen pal, Griffin cocked Axel in the back of the head. He was knocked unconscious.
Griffin, who was bestowed the Medal of Honor for his bravery while responding to a mass shooting in 2012, has been investigated internally 18 times.
A pair of lawsuits, in which Griffin was accused of unleashed brutality against citizens with no legit cause, have cost the city $400,000.
Griffin's federal woes are only the latest headache he's supplied to Chief Janee Harteau's thin blue line.
According to a longtime Minneapolis Police officer, Griffin remains a problem because the department doesn't know what to do with him.
"He's a bad cop. No doubt about it," says the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he's still on the force. "He should have been fired a long time ago. I don't know if his race plays into it or if it's just that [Harteau] is incapable of demonstrating the leadership needed to do something."
Griffin's dubious escapades headline questions about the department's oversight and discipline of what appears to be misconduct on behalf of a few rogue cops.
According to news reports, the Office of Police Conduct Review received almost 600 complaints between the fall of 2012 and into 2014. Most were dismissed or handed over to an in-house coaching process, in which the officer is counseled by a supervisor.
Griffin's 2011 incident at The Loop resulted in a recommendation for a Letter of Written Reprimand by the Internal Affairs Unit panel.
"The only reason I can think of that he's still around," says the Minneapolis Police source, "is no one knows what to do with him."
Griffin isn't going anywhere anytime soon.
The source tells City Pages the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis has floated union member Griffin a $75,000 unsecured loan to help in his defense against the civil rights charges.
Federation President Lt. Bob Kroll had no comment.