Tirado settlement is an unsatisfactory end to two outrageous incidents in city history | Column
Add harassing reporters to the city’s growing list of failures
A photo of freelance journalist Linda Tirado, who was struck in the left eye by a projectile believed to have been fired from the weapon of Minneapolis Police. Photo courtesy of Tirado.
How much is your left eye worth to you?
$10 million? $1 million? $600,000 seems low, but that’s what Linda Tirado is stuck with. She’s the photographer who was permanently blinded in her left eye when police shot her with a projectile in the days after George Floyd was murdered, by the police.
Rather than disrupt her life anymore with a potential trial, Tirado settled her lawsuit with the city of Minneapolis. A recent city actuarial study found that Minneapolis could wind up paying more than $100 million in general liability settlements following the events of 2020, most of it due to the police department’s misconduct and negligence.
The Tirado settlement also closes an outrageous subplot of the lawsuit: Subpoenas issued to Reformer reporter Max Nesterak and Star Tribune reporter Andy Mannix.
More than 18 months after the civil unrest following Floyd’s murder, the reporters were told to appear at a deposition and produce emails, text messages, notes and other material related to their journalism during the crucial few days following Floyd’s murder.
The supposed link between Nesterak and Mannix and Tirado is that all three had been hit with police projectiles.
About that. A federal judge in Tirado’s case wrote a breathtaking appraisal of the city’s respect for the First Amendment: “That numerous other journalists experienced similar, seemingly unjustified incidents involving less-lethal munitions and other measures is even more troubling, as the allegations plausibly suggest an unconstitutional custom carried out by [Minneapolis police] officers of targeting journalists for unlawful reprisals.”
The city, nearly two years later, said it wanted to ask the reporters whether they’d been targeted by police, as Tirado alleged.
Even if this rationale were true, it didn’t explain why they needed to snoop into their text messages and emails. We were engaged in joint effort with the Star Tribune to quash the subpoenas.
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In addition to also being struck by police projectiles, here’s another strange coincidence linking the two reporters: Both Nesterak and Mannix have produced some of the most hard-hitting reporting about the Minneapolis Police Department.
Mannix has reported on the department’s use of dodgy — perhaps even nonexistent — confidential informants. He reported that Minneapolis was still training officers in the faux medical condition known as “excited delirium” even after claiming they’d stopped. Mannix and Libor Jany reported on the cowboy culture of the Third Precinct, the one that housed convicted murderer Derek Chauvin. Mannix reported that while the Third Precinct burned, officers in the Second Precinct proceeded to destroy a bunch of documents. He also reported on the widespread use of the powerful sedative ketamine by Hennepin County medical responders, at the urging of MPD.
Nesterak and Reformer contributor Tony Webster published more than 8,000 words on MPD’s broken discipline system, which allowed bad cops to stay on the job, and even thrive despite numerous warning signals that they were violent. Nesterak reported that no cops had been disciplined for their actions during the George Floyd protests and rioting, despite the city paying out millions in settlements for people who had lost eyes or suffered other serious injuries. He also reported that MPD was slow walking background checks, which delayed the city’s effort to get an important mental health program — and an explicit alternative to policing — off the ground.
I’m not one to wear the tinfoil hat, but I can’t be the only person to recognize the bizarre coincidence that the city sought to fish into the work product of the two reporters digging into MPD, and then force them to sit for a deposition.
Hey, maybe they’d get lucky, and a hand-wringing editor would say the reporters couldn’t cover MPD anymore because they had a conflict-of-interest due to the litigation. Maybe this bit of legal harassment would get the reporters to ease up, encourage them to think twice about leaning into tough stories on the city and the police department.
I can only speak for the Reformer, but I can assure our readers that this third-rate bullying will have only the opposite effect. And knowing Mannix, I’m sure he’d say the same.
Yes, I live in St. Paul, so I’m biased, but let’s be honest: The city of Minneapolis is a mess. You only need to ask Tirado, or Soren Stevenson, who lost his left eye while peacefully protesting after Floyd’s murder. Then, of course, there’s the family of Floyd and Justine Damond and all the others, now dead at the hands of the police.
City leaders should focus on fixing the problems, not harassing reporters.
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