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.
A St. Paul man who was acquitted of attempted murder and assault after shooting at a Minneapolis SWAT team — after its members fired rubber bullets at him without warning from an unmarked van — has sued the city of Minneapolis and multiple police officers from sergeants to a commander.
Jaleel K. Stallings alleges physical and psychological damage after suffering a fractured eye socket during a beating after he surrendered to police.
Stallings joins a bevy of journalists and demonstrators who have sued Minneapolis following the police murder of George Floyd. They allege that during the protests, officers used indiscriminate force on reporters doing their jobs and peaceably assembled demonstrators, causing blindness, traumatic brain injuries and other serious maladies.
Stallings sued 19 Minneapolis officers — including five unidentified officers seen in body camera videos — as well as the former president of the Minneapolis Police Federation. Bob Kroll is the famously combative union leader who wrote a letter to members after the Floyd killing in which he blamed elected officials for the rioting and said he tried to create a backchannel to then-Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, with plans to mobilize 2,000 to 3,000 National Guard members and get the Senate to “run the actions.”
Kroll was still a lieutenant five days after Floyd’s death, as MPD struggled to gain control of the city after riots, arson and looting. The complaint alleges Kroll’s “opinions and directives” influenced the officers’ operations and tactics in a way that was contrary to MPD policy.
Stallings was in a parking lot on May 30, 2020, after the 8 p.m. curfew — armed with a legal pistol and on the lookout for white supremacists the governor had warned about earlier that day — when a white, unmarked cargo van rolled into view from behind a building on Lake Street.
The SWAT team, in black tactical gear and gas masks, immediately fired at him and his friends with black-barreled 40mm rubber bullet launchers without warning. Stallings, an Army veteran, said he fired back immediately, intentionally missing, as he took cover.
Once the SWAT team jumped out of the van yelling “shots fired!” he realized they were cops, dropped his pistol and laid face down on the pavement, hands to the side. Two of the cops then beat him for 30 seconds, inflicting the eye injury, before arresting him.
The lawsuit alleges officers gave false accounts of what happened, omitting important facts that bolstered Stallings’ claim of self-defense, saying Stallings shot at them without provocation and resisted arrest.
For example, even though Stallings had green paint on his shirt from a 40mm marking round, no officer reported that Stallings had been struck.
The lawsuit claims officers engaged in a “malicious pattern of force designed to injure and scare civilians” and the SWAT team used excessive force and other officers didn’t intervene, as required by MPD policy.
The lawsuit also claims Stallings was targeted because of officers’ racial bias.
“Supervising officers not only knew of these violations — they condoned and encouraged them,” Stallings’ attorney Eric Rice wrote in the complaint. “Recordings show supervisors ordering officers to prioritize and use force against their community.”
He said this was part of a pattern of constitutional violations by the MPD and lack of accountability that led the community to protest so vigorously after the murder of Floyd.
Stallings is seeking unspecified compensation for the damages, including punitive damages, saying his reputation was irreparably harmed by the “false narrative” police and prosecutors disseminated that he tried to kill cops, which was repeated by local and national media.
Even after Stallings’ widely reported acquittal, Rice noted, state Sen. Mark Koran promoted a video on Facebook saying “Democrats want to keep bailing out violent criminals” with a photo of Stallings and a description of the false allegations used to prosecute him.
MPD has declined to comment on the Stallings case, citing an ongoing internal investigation and city spokeswoman Sarah McKenzie said the City Attorney’s Office is reviewing the lawsuit and has no comment at this time.
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