MPD chief signed off on hiring Virginia officer who struck, used stun gun on unarmed Black man

The case made national headlines just days after George Floyd’s murder

By: - May 4, 2023 1:47 pm

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 chief ordered a full investigation last month into his department’s hiring of a Virginia police officer who repeatedly Tasered and struck a disoriented, unarmed Black man just days after Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin murdered George Floyd.

But Minneapolis Police Chief Brian O’Hara signed the letter offering Tyler Timberlake a job as a police officer, city personnel documents show. 

Key portions of documents about Timberlake’s hiring turned over to the Reformer were redacted, but O’Hara’s letter congratulates Timberlake for choosing to “bring your talents to our organization, where we pride ourselves on providing top-notch service to residents, businesses and visitors.”

Asked why O’Hara launched an investigation when he personally signed off on the hire, the police chief released a statement saying Timberlake was presented to him as “highly recommended” for hire after multiple layers of review.

“I have to be able to trust that the officer has been screened and meets my standard for this department,” he said.

That’s why he ordered a “comprehensive investigation” into MPD’s background checks and hiring processes, after which he expects to make “substantial process changes” to ensure that every potential hire presented to him for sign-off has been adequately vetted “allowing me to trust they meet my standard for officers in this department.”

Timberlake made headlines days after Floyd’s murder because of the parallels to the Floyd case, which were evident in body camera footage. Fairfax County Police were called to a residential area, where a man was wandering around in the street, shouting that he needed oxygen. 

A paramedic and police officer first arrived to find La Monta Gladney pacing and rambling incoherently, body camera footage shows. 

They were trying to coax Gladney into an ambulance when Timberlake arrived, strode up to the man and said, “Get on the ground, Anthony” — calling Gladney by the wrong name — and then immediately Tasered him, causing Gladney to fall on his back. Timberlake told him to roll over and jammed his knees into Gladney’s neck and back. As Gladney repeatedly yelled “DeeDee!” Timberlake held the Taser on his back and hit him in the head with the stun gun before Tasering him again on the back of his neck as Gladney shouted for help. As several officers handcuffed him, Gladney repeatedly said, “I can’t breathe DeeDee!” The officers rolled him onto his side.

Gladney was taken to a hospital, treated, and released. Investigators later found cocaine and PCP in his system. He was charged with being drunk in public and resisting arrest, but the charges were dropped a week later.

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

Timberlake was charged with three counts of misdemeanor assault and battery and relieved of duty. Nearly two years later, he was acquitted by a Fairfax County jury.

During his trial, he testified that he thought Gladney was another man wanted for violent crimes. The prosecutor said mistaking Gladney for someone else didn’t justify what Timberlake did, according to media reports on the trial. 

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

Last month, when the Reformer reported Timberlake’s hiring, O’Hara released a statement saying he was “extremely concerned” to learn about the hiring and directed staff to do a thorough investigation. He said Timberlake was still in training and wouldn’t be deployed until a “full investigation” was conducted.

“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,” O’Hara said at the time.

Asked how Timberlake’s past was missed when a Google search turns up numerous stories about the case, including several in the Washington Post, 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.”

Personnel documents show Timberlake applied at MPD in August and his start date was Jan. 9.

MPD applicants must disclose on their application whether they’ve been suspended or terminated from a job in the past decade; Timberlake’s answer was redacted (blacked out) by the city.

The application asks numerous questions about whether the applicant has ever been convicted of certain crimes and whether they’ve had any criminal offenses in the past 10 years, even if they were just a suspect and never charged. Timberlake’s answer to that question was also redacted.

A prosecutor told the presiding judge in Timberlake’s criminal 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.

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.” 

Timberlake’s MPD application indicates he was hired by the Fairfax department in late 2015, and had been working as a recruiter and instructor at the department since May 2022 — two months after being acquitted. His “reason for leaving” Virginia was also redacted from his MPD application.


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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.