Jaleel Stallings stands next to his pickup that he took cover behind as police fired rubber bullets at him. One damaged the side mirror. Photo by Deena Winter/Minnesota Reformer.
The city of Minneapolis has agreed to pay $1.5 million plus costs and attorneys’ fees to Jaleel Stallings, an Army veteran who sued the city after being acquitted on the grounds of self-defense after he was charged with shooting at Minneapolis police who first fired marking rounds at him.
The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and the FBI are investigating the incident, which took place five days after the police murder of George Floyd.
As the Minneapolis Police Department struggled to regain control of the city, a SWAT team drove around Minneapolis in an unmarked van at night, firing 40-mm marking rounds at civilians out after curfew. They then beat Stallings and his companion after Stallings fired back with a pistol, unaware they were cops. He said he purposefully missed them.
Nearly a year after a jury acquitted the former St. Paul man of eight charges, including attempted murder, Stallings said while the settlement is “great,” he’s left feeling some dissatisfaction.
“I didn’t go into the civil suit with the intention of getting a check — I wanted justice and accountability, just like I had to face,” Stallings said. “I would like to see all parties involved be held to some level of accountability as well.”
The city will not admit guilt or take responsibility as part of the agreement with Stallings, which still has to be approved by the Minneapolis City Council.
Deputy Minneapolis City Attorney Erik Nilsson released a statement saying that after consultation with the City Council, the City Attorney’s Office offered Stallings $1.5 million and “hopes that an early resolution to this matter will allow all of the parties to move forward.”
The City Attorney’s Office, after consultation with the City Council, served on the Plaintiff in this case a Federal Rule 68 Offer of Judgment in the amount of $1.5 million. The plaintiff accepted this judgment. The City hopes that an early resolution to this matter will allow all of the parties to move forward.
The Stallings settlement is just the latest in a string of expensive settlements with people who say they were the victims of egregious police misconduct. Earlier this month, the state Department of Human Rights released a blistering report that found the city and MPD engage in a pattern or practice of race discrimination.
Stallings now lives in Texas, where he moved out of fear of retaliation. After his arrest and charges, he became depressed as he faced the uncertainty of a trial and the possibility of decades in prison. He had no criminal record prior to his arrest.
After he was acquitted, he said that got far less attention than his arrest, with national headlines painting him as a would-be cop killer. He went through phases where he feared retaliation by white supremacists or police.
“It’s a battle,” Stallings said. “I don’t feel the same as I did before all this took place.”
Asked how he’s doing now, Stallings said, “I’m OK.”
He’d been stopped by police and racially profiled before, but never experienced anything like that night, when police beat him for 30 seconds even though he had dropped flat on the ground when he realized they were cops.
Stallings said he’d like to bring people together — from police to gun rights groups — to talk about how to improve policing culture. He thinks the funds to settle his lawsuit should come from police pockets, rather than taxpayers.
“The work’s not done,” Stallings said.
Until the Reformer wrote about his case in September, his July acquittal went unreported, Stallings noted.
“The minute things went down, I was held to the highest form of accountability,” he said. “But I was the only one held to any form of accountability. And to me, that’s not justice.”
Emails that Stallings’ attorney, Eric Rice, obtained through a public records request show the day the initial Reformer story was published on Sept. 1, then-Deputy Chief Amelia Huffman referred the matter to the city’s Office of Police Conduct Review.
Later that day, then-Chief Medaria Arradondo released a statement saying he couldn’t comment because the incident was under investigation.
Rice said MPD’s disciplinary system failed: Before Stallings’ trial, District Judge William Koch found the SWAT team violated Stallings’ constitutional rights and Stallings was acquitted with evidence that included officers’ body camera video footage.
Rice said he’s concerned that misconduct observed by multiple officers on the scene and during the investigation failed to capture the attention of MPD officials.
It’s troubling that MPD had to rely on reporters to expose the incident, he said, even though officers are supposed to report misconduct, and MPD was conducting an after-action review of its protest response.
“This experience has shown how much work we have to do to live up to what we call the criminal justice system,” Rice said. “And the takeaway from me and Jaleel’s case is this was not an isolated incident. This was not a failing of (the) system. This could literally happen to anybody, and if nothing is fixed, it will happen again.”
Updated at 6:09 p.m. to include city comment.
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