More videos released in Jaleel Stallings case

By: - September 27, 2021 9:00 am

Screen shot from parking lot surveillance video showing Jaleel Stallings fire back at Minneapolis police officers before he realized they were cops.

Warning: Contains graphic video.

The Reformer has obtained police body camera and other videos from an incident in which a St. Paul man shot at a Minneapolis SWAT team after they fired rubber bullets at him from an unmarked van.

The incident, which took place five days after George Floyd’s murder rocked the city, was the subject of a Sept. 1 Reformer story.

After the SWAT team fired 40mm rounds at Stallings and his friends without warning from the side door of a darkened cargo van crawling along Lake Street and 14th Avenue, Jaleel K. Stallings, 29, fired three shots back while taking cover near his pickup.

After a July Hennepin County jury trial, Stallings was acquitted of all eight charges after testifying that he acted in self-defense, not knowing the men shooting were cops. He then immediately surrendered once he realized they were law enforcement. 

While he lay face down on the pavement, unarmed, police beat him until his eye socket was fractured. 

After some legal wrangling, the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office agreed to let Stallings’ attorney, Eric Rice, disseminate the bodycam videos and other evidence produced at the trial. A 2016 standing order prohibits the disclosure of bodycam evidence unless the prosecutor agrees to the release. 

Rice fought to release the evidence that led to Stallings’ acquittal, noting just one of the charges had a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years.

Stallings, an Army veteran, said before the incident, a group of people had warned Stallings that people were shooting out of a truck, so he armed himself with his legal pistol.

The newly released videos show how quickly the incident unfolded. After someone ran by yelling, “They’re shooting! They’re shooting!” Stallings and his friends tried to take cover, but Stallings was struck in the chest while trying to get in his pickup. He fired back immediately.

As the van approached 14th Avenue, Sgt. Andrew Bittell told the SWAT team there was a group in the parking lot to the north, and they began firing at several people standing near Stallings’ pickup.

The officers yelled “Shots fired! Shots fired!” and jumped out of the van. Stallings said that’s when he realized they were cops.

He dropped flat to the ground, discarded his pistol and put his hands to his side. A parking lot surveillance video shows the beating he took for it, with MPD Officer Justin Stetson immediately pouncing on Stallings, kicking and punching him in the head and neck.

Bodycam videos show Stallings repeatedly tried to surrender, saying “Listen, listen, sir, I’m trying to” as Stetson and Bittell beat him for about 30 seconds. Stetson wrote in his report that he struck Stallings to gain control of him — even though he was flat on the ground — and claimed Stallings wasn’t complying.

In his written report, Bittell didn’t say that his team fired any 40mm rounds at Stallings before Stallings fired at the van, writing only that he “heard shots fired from the rear of the pickup and saw muzzle flashes from that area.”

The newly released bodycam video excerpts show the officers riding in the van down Lake Street — which was covered in anti-police graffiti and eerily empty. In his written report, Stetson described Lake Street as “a complete mess [that] looked like the scene out of a movie” and said “[e]very other store was looted or had fire damage from the night before.”

Before coming upon Stallings, the video shows the SWAT team fired 40mm rounds at civilians without warning, then yelled at them to “go home.” That alarmed one of those civilians at 15th Avenue and prompted him to run past the parking lot near Stallings’ group yelling “They’re shooting!”

Earlier that night, Bittell had ordered the unit to “Drive down Lake Street. You see a group, call it out. OK great! F*** ’em up, gas ’em, f*** ’em up.”

Rice also released an audio recording of police questioning of Stallings in the hospital afterward. He was treated for the fractured eye socket and numerous scrapes and bruises. When asked if he would give a statement, Stallings asked if everybody was OK. The officer replied, “Depends what you consider to be OK; nobody’s mortally injured.”

Stallings said he wanted to make sure everybody was OK.  “That’s what I was really concerned with,” he said, before asking to speak to a lawyer.

The officer said, “That shows that you are concerned about what happened. I appreciate that.”

But the criminal complaint said during police questioning, Stallings asked if anyone had been killed, and after being told no, he “said he wanted to speak with a lawyer and the statement was ended.” It said nothing about him asking if the police were OK.

After reviewing the evidence in the case, Rice said he asked the prosecutor to either dismiss the charges or offer a “substantially mitigated resolution” based on the officers’ conduct. The prosecutor declined. Before the trial, the prosecutor offered a plea agreement in which Stallings would plead guilty to both attempted murder counts and get a 153-month prison sentence. He declined.


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Deena Winter
Deena Winter

Deena Winter has covered local and state government in four states over the past three decades, with stints at the Bismarck Tribune in North Dakota, as a correspondent for the Denver Post, city hall reporter in Lincoln, Nebraska, and regional editor for Southwest News in the western Minneapolis suburbs.