MPD hired officer accused of striking, using stun gun on unarmed Black man

Minneapolis police chief orders ‘full investigation’ into hiring of former Virginia officer Tyler Timberlake

By: - April 19, 2023 6:01 am

Fairfax County police officer Tyler Timberlake was arrested after using a stun gun on an unarmed, disoriented Black man multiple times, hitting him in the head with the Taser and kneeling on his back and neck. Screen shot from Fairfax County Police Department video

The Minneapolis Police Department hired a Virginia police officer who was charged with — but acquitted of — assaulting an unarmed Black man in distress just days after Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin murdered George Floyd on a south Minneapolis street.

Body camera footage showed that within seconds of arriving on the scene, Officer Tyler Timberlake repeatedly used his Taser on the man and hit him in the head with the stun gun, then kneeled on his neck and back after the man fell to the ground. 

A Minneapolis spokesman confirmed that Timberlake began working for the MPD on Jan. 9.

After the Reformer inquired about Timberlake’s hiring, Minneapolis Police Chief Brian O’Hara released a statement Tuesday saying he was “extremely concerned” to learn about the hiring and directed staff to complete a thorough investigation. He said Timberlake is still in training and hasn’t yet been deployed into service at MPD.

“The individual in question will not be deployed or serve in a law enforcement capacity in any way until we conclude a full investigation into this matter,” he continued. “We will get to the bottom of this and take whatever measures are necessary to ensure we are always hiring officers who meet our standards and that we are ultimately placing only the most qualified and competent police into the service and protection in the city of Minneapolis.”

Asked how Timberlake’s past was missed, when a Google search turns up dozens of stories about the case, an MPD spokesman said, “The chief has committed to take any and all appropriate action to correct the matter once all the facts are known and to institute any necessary changes to the backgrounds vetting process for the department.”

Timberlake was a Fairfax County police officer on June 5, 2020 when police were called about a man walking around in circles on a residential street and shouting that he needed oxygen, according to a Washington Post account of the incident.

The incident was captured by a body camera on the first officer who arrived on the scene. It shows a paramedic and officer approach a man named La Monta Gladney, who is wearing a white tank top and blue jeans and rambling incoherently. Later, investigators found cocaine and PCP in his system. 

The first officer on the scene and the paramedic try to coax Gladney into a waiting ambulance. 

The video doesn’t indicate that Gladney, who was unarmed, was a threat to anyone, aside from walking aimlessly in the middle of a residential street.  

Less than three minutes into the video, Timberlake, then an eight-year veteran of the department, arrives, walks swiftly toward Gladney and says “Get on the ground, Anthony,” calling Gladney by the wrong name. 

Timberlake would later testify that he thought Gladney was another man wanted for violent crimes. 

Seconds after his approach, Timberlake uses a Taser on Gladney, causing Gladney to fall on his back. Then Timberlake tells him to roll over and jams his knees into Gladney’s neck and back; Gladney then shouts for help. 

As Gladney repeatedly yells “DeeDee,” Timberlake holds the Taser on his back and hits him in the head with the stun gun before Tasering him again on the back of his neck. 

Then, as several officers handcuff Gladney, the man repeatedly says, “I can’t breathe DeeDee!” The officers and paramedic roll him onto his side.

Gladney was taken to a hospital, treated and released. He was later charged with being drunk in public and resisting arrest, but the charges were dropped a week later, according to WHSV-TV.

A day after the incident, the county attorney and Fairfax County Police Chief Edwin C. Roessler Jr. held a press conference, where Roessler called Timberlake’s actions horrible, unacceptable, criminal and a violation of department policies, according to the Washington Post

Timberlake was arrested and charged with three counts of misdemeanor assault and battery and relieved of duty. 

A prosecutor told a judge presiding over the case that when Timberlake was arrested, he “was already in the process of moving to Minneapolis,” according to WTOP News. The prosecutor said after the June 5 incident, Timberlake “didn’t turn in his body-worn camera at the end of his shift — he went home sick, and didn’t turn it in the next day,” WTOP reported.

Nearly two years later, in March 2022, Timberlake was acquitted of the assault charges by a Fairfax County jury.

Timberlake said during the trial that in addition to mistaking Gladney for someone else, he thought Gladney was a threat because he appeared to be on drugs. Timberlake testified that he wasn’t trying to hurt the man, but get him help, and that people on the drug PCP can be unusually strong and often don’t respond to pain the same way a sober person does.

The prosecutor said mistaking Gladney for someone else didn’t justify what Timberlake did, according to WHSV-TV.  

Gladney did not testify during the trial, but sued Timberlake and the county and later settled for $150,000, according to the Post. In the suit’s court filings, Gladney said he was in the street trying to get help for a friend who fell unconscious.

Lt. John Crone of the Fairfax Police Department told the Reformer that Timberlake returned to the Virginia department after being acquitted, but “left on his own accord,” although he didn’t know when.

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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.