Man beaten by Minneapolis police launches ‘Good Apple’ nonprofit

Jaleel Stallings wants to encourage ‘good apples’ to help reform policing

By: - August 8, 2023 4:16 pm

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.

Jaleel Stallings, who was beaten by Minneapolis police officers after he shot at them in self-defense in 2020, is launching a nonprofit called the Good Apple Initiative to encourage “good apples” in law enforcement, government, the criminal justice system and community to work together to change the culture of Minnesota policing.

Even though he was a victim of many of those very institutions.

Five days after George Floyd was murdered by Minneapolis police, as police struggled to regain control of the city amid protests and riots, a SWAT team drove around the city shooting 40mm non-lethal rounds without warning at curfew violators, from an unmarked van.

Stallings — an Army veteran with a gun permit and a pistol — was hit in the chest with one of their rubber bullets while standing in a Lake Street parking lot. He thought he’d been hit by a bullet, so he fired three rounds in the direction of the van, purposely missing to try to scare the shooters off, he later testified.

The SWAT team spilled out of the van and beat Stallings for 30 seconds even though he had immediately dropped flat to the ground when he realized they were cops. He was hospitalized with a fractured eye socket and charged with eight crimes, including attempting to murder police officers. The incident made national headlines and caught the attention of then-President Donald Trump’s campaign war room, which called Stallings a “would-be cop killer.”

Stallings was acquitted by a jury after body camera and surveillance videos contradicted the officers’ stories, as the Reformer reported in September 2021. He later sued the city and won a $1.5 million settlement, plus costs and attorneys’ fees.

He moved to Houston, but began working with his attorney, Eric Rice, on his idea of doing something to change the system.

“Good Apple is essentially my response to what we saw and I actually experienced during my time involved in the criminal justice system,” he said in an interview from Houston Tuesday. “It’s focused towards bringing change to the nature of policing and bringing it to a point where it works for everybody by empowering the good officers or good apples in the system.”

The nonprofit will accept donations and have a website with tool kits for shifting the culture, and a portal where people can anonymously report police brutality.

Stallings said as part of the listening phase of creating the nonprofit, he’s talked to police officers from Minneapolis and the surrounding area. Several told him about the repercussions they face when they report colleagues’ bad behavior, from slow-rolling misconduct investigations to not responding to a call for backup. Some pitched the idea of creating a legal defense fund separate from the regular police unions’.

Shelly Dvorak, executive director of Good Apple, said Stallings faced problems every step of his journey through the criminal justice system: The SWAT team violated MPD policies by not warning citizens and using excessive force. The officers’ reports were false in some cases. The prosecutor pressed charges — later saying the officers lied — and failed to disclose the officers’ disciplinary history, as required by the U.S. Constitution. The judge failed to throw the case out. 

“At every point of the process, there was an opportunity for a good apple to step in and say no,” Dvorak said. But, she said, “They feel alone. They don’t know who has their back.”

Abigail Cerra, a member of Good Apple’s board of directors, is a former Hennepin County public defender and former chair of the Minneapolis Police Conduct Oversight Commission. She was inspired by the way Stallings responded to everything that happened.

“He really wants to build something positive and build community instead of wallow in bitterness and walk away and just be angry and never do anything,” Cerra said. “It would be so much easier to take your check and walk away. … I can’t believe that he came out of this saying, ‘I want to do something positive and collaborative.’ And if he is big enough of a person to do that, I want to support him. How could I say no?”

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

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.