No charges in police killing of Brooklyn Center man who was autistic

    The mother of Kobe Dimock-Heisler, Amity Dimock, hugs civil rights attorney Nekima Levy Armstrong in Minneapolis. Photo by Aviva Waldman/Minnesota Reformer.

    No charges will be filed against the two officers who fatally shot 21-year-old Kobe Dimock-Heisler in August 2019, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced Wednesday. 

    Brooklyn Center Police Department Officers Brandon Akers and Cody Turner shot Dimock-Heisler a total of six times after responding to a 911 call made by his grandfather, who Dimock-Heisler lived with.

    “While this incident ended tragically, the officers involved made every attempt to resolve the situation peacefully before resorting to the use of deadly force,” the County Attorney’s report reads. 

    Dimock-Heisler’s family and their supporters, however, question whether the officers created a volatile situation in the first place.

    According to the county attorney’s report, Dimock-Heisler was autistic and had a history of mental illness, which officers were aware of when they responded to the 911 call originating from his house. He had been placed on a 72 hour hold after stabbing himself in the stomach in March, and had been in a treatment program before having to leave because his health insurance wouldn’t cover it.

    Kobe Dimock-Heisler. Photo courtesy of family.

    The incident began when Dimock-Heisler and his grandfather were at a Wendy’s earlier in the day. Dimock-Heisler became angry that the Wendy’s employee had gotten their order wrong and started yelling, initiating an argument with his grandfather that ended with him walking home, where he brandished a knife and hammer and told his grandfather to apologize.

    The grandfather then hid in a bedroom and called 911, while Dimock-Heisler used the knife to cut his own chest. The grandfather later called back to say that a police response was no longer needed and that Dimock-Heisler was fine, but officers still arrived.

    The 911 call was picked up by two separate patrol cars, bringing Officers Akers, Turner, Joseph Vu and Stephen Holt to Dimock-Heisler’s door. According to sworn statements from both Turner and Akers, Dimock-Heisler’s grandfather met them outside and said that the situation was over and that he thought he probably should not have called the police. Turner and Akers insisted that they needed to check that everyone inside the house was safe before leaving. 

    At a press conference calling for an independent investigation of Dimock-Heisler’s death, his mother Amity Dimock said that the police chose to enter the house knowing that they were no longer wanted there, escalating a situation that had already been defused.

    “They made the decision to do what they do, which is come and re-escalate the situation and they ended up putting my son down like an animal,” Dimock said.

    After entering the house, Akers and Turner went to speak to Dimock-Heisler’s grandfather outside while Holt and Vu interviewed Dimock-Heisler and his grandmother in their living room.

    According to the statement Vu gave investigators, Dimock-Heisler admitted he had used the knife and hammer to threaten his grandfather and showed the officers the wounds on his chest, He said he had been involuntarily committed once before and did not want to go through it again. 

    Vu called for an ambulance, telling Dimock-Heisler it was for his injuries, although Turner said in his statement that he had already decided to take Dimock-Heisler into custody. Dimock-Heisler accused Vu of trying to have him committed again and started crying, telling Vu that he did not want to go. He stood up and started to run, at which point Vu and Holt tackled him.

    According to the county attorney’s report, Dimock-Heisler managed to grab a knife and was attempting to stab Vu, who was still holding on to him and who told investigators he didn’t realize what was happening until after the fact. 

    Dimock and activists who came to the press conference to support her criticized the official report’s portrayal of the moments leading up to Akers and Turner using deadly force, saying that it falsely painted Dimock-Heisler as more of a threat to the officers than he actually was.

    Dimock said her son was generally nonviolent and only had a history of harming himself, and that body camera footage showed him trying to run away from the officers, not run to attack them or his grandmother.

    Hearing a fight break out, both Akers and Turner ran back into the house and fired their Tasers at Dimock-Heisler multiple times. When the Taser failed to stop him from struggling, both officers opened fire. They waited to handcuff Dimock-Heisler, holding him at gunpoint after he was shot and taking the knife, before Holt administered any medical aid. By that point, he no longer had a pulse.

    The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension investigated Dimock-Heisler’s killing; police reform advocates say that officers can’t be expected to fairly investigate their colleagues.

    Dimock implored the public not to believe police statements that they were de-escalating the situation when they were forced to shoot Dimock-Heisler. 

    “I saw the tapes myself, I know my son and I know he was nonviolent,” Dimock said, tearing up at the microphone. “I want the world to know what a beautiful, loving, creative boy he was.”

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    Reformer intern Avi Waldman is a junior at the University of Chicago working on a degree in English language and literature. She edits and reports for the independent student newspaper, the Chicago Maroon. She previously interned at San Diego CityBeat. In her free time, she enjoys cross-country road trips and is a proud cat parent.