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In Minneapolis, rage over George Floyd extends beyond cop

Guests gather at North Central University Thursday, June 4, 2020, before a memorial service for George Floyd in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Five years ago, the U.S. Justice Department report found that law enforcement agencies failed to remove bad officers and that there were no clear criteria on the use of force and de-escalation tactics.

Posted: Jun 8, 2020 9:59 AM
Updated: Jun 8, 2020 10:12 AM

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — To truly understand the rage people in this city felt as they watched a video of George Floyd begging, gasping and slowly succumbing beneath the weight of a police officer’s knee, it’s necessary to step back in time.

Seven years before Floyd’s cheek was smashed against the pavement, Terrance “Mookie” Franklin cowered behind a water heater in a dark basement after fleeing police who were trying to confront him about a burglary. With flashlights mounted on their guns and a police dog leading the way, they thumped down the stairs and soon found him hiding.

Fourteen minutes later, the 22-year-old African American was lying in a puddle of his own blood. Seven bullet holes pockmarked his head and neck, and three more pierced his upper torso.

As with so many allegations of police brutality in Minnesota, exactly what happened in that basement on May 10, 2013, may never be known.

The official account said two officers were shot and wounded after Franklin grabbed a police gun. But no gunshot residue testing was conducted and an examination of defense evidence suggests friendly fire may have been to blame. A $795,000 settlement reached with Franklin’s family last year kept those details out of court.

What’s clear is this: The deaths of Floyd, Franklin and other black men at the hands of Minneapolis police have exacerbated the corrosive relationship between people of color and a criminal justice system they feel is stacked against them. At every step along the way, they feel choked.

It’s a story that dates back more than four decades, to when Minnesota’s small, flourishing black community fell victim to redlining and discriminatory denial of services, including bank loans. Soon after, drugs and guns started flooding the area and crime rates soared.

When a fragile truce between gangs and police was shattered in 1992 by the execution-style hit on officer Jerry Haaf, a crackdown followed. It has perpetuated a culture of brutality and impunity that continues to this day, partly because the department has avoided reform, said Michelle Gross of the city’s non-profit Communities United Against Police Brutality.

The force did not respond to questions for this story. But police union president Lt. Bob Kroll has steadfastly defended officers’ conduct over the years. In 2019, when the city’s mayor banned “warrior-style” training for police, Kroll said the union itself would pay for the instruction.

An AP review of Minneapolis Police Department data found force has been used 11,000 times in the past five years. Black people accounted for 60% of those cases, even though they represent only 19% of the city’s population. Body pins were most commonly used, followed by punching, kicking and shoving.

In 2015, the U.S. Justice Department released a report addressing ways to prevent police misconduct, provide more transparency and improve community relations following a request from Minneapolis’ then-police chief. It found there were no clear criteria on the use of force and de-escalation tactics, and that law enforcement agencies either lacked the will or the authority to remove bad officers.

SWAT team member Lucas Peterson, who fired five shots into Franklin’s skull, had already been involved in 12 other excessive force cases — including the death of another black man.

In 2002, not long after joining the force, Peterson, who is white, used a choke hold on Christopher Burns after responding to a domestic dispute. The medical examiner’s office ruled the death a homicide, and a $300,000 settlement was paid, though a grand jury chose not to indict.

Four years later, Peterson lied in a police report, saying a woman had jumped on his partner’s back during a traffic stop. The charges were dropped after surveillance video proved she didn’t. That cost the city $100,000.

Peterson remains on the job.

Incidents that have drawn national attention since then include the shooting of Philando Castile, 32, during a 2016 traffic stop in nearby Falcon Heights as his girlfriend live-streamed the aftermath on Facebook. The Latino officer was acquitted..

And the death of Jamar Clark, 25, shot in 2015, when police responded to a report of an assault on a woman at a birthday party. Police said Clark struggled with two police, and that his DNA was found on an officer’s gun. But witnesses gave accounts that conflicted with that narrative. No charges were brought against the white officers involved.

Mohamed Noor, a black Somali-American, is the only officer known to face murder charges in an on-duty killing, and his victim was white. Justine Ruszczyk Damond was shot in 2017 as she approached his car to report a possible rape behind her home. Noor was sentenced to 12½ years in prison, and the woman’s family received a record $20 million settlement.

Castile’s family settled for $3 million. Clark’s family accepted $200,000.

“There it is, right there, in those numbers,” said Kevin Reese, founder of the Minneapolis activist group Until We Are All Free. “It is a prime example of how, here, white life is valued more than black lives.”

___

In the mid-1990s, skyrocketing homicide rates briefly earned the city the grim nickname Murderapolis.

A gang strike task force was formed to push down crime. But a class-action lawsuit exposed widespread allegations of misconduct, and the city agreed to a $3 million settlement. The unit was dismantled in 2009, but many people put away by testimony from its gang experts remain in prison.

In their heyday, police compounded the terror and despair of those living in neighborhoods already devastated by income disparities, underperforming schools and environmental blight. Harassment was constant. Some recalled police stopping youths from playing outside, ordering them to lift up their shirts to prove they weren’t packing guns or dope.

One police duo, nicknamed Batman and Robin, is remembered by many in the neighborhood. They’d roll up blasting the “Bad Boys” theme music from the TV show “Cops,” taunting residents through their car speakers. Others known as Red Dog and Wild Wild West were equally feared.

At 18, Adrian Riley recalled officers becoming enraged when he refused to give up the name of a friend who ran from the cops. He said they took him to a nearby alley where they kicked and stomped him, before bringing him to the precinct. He said he was charged with disorderly conduct and released.

His mom, Mary Ann Riley, said she found him curled up in bed, moaning in pain.

“I snatched the cover off him and I said, ‘Oh my God. Who did this to you?’ I didn’t even know who my son was, they beat my son so bad,” she said. Hospital staff told her there was urine in his blood, and he might have died without treatment.

Though Minnesota is viewed as progressive, it ranks among the country’s worst when it comes to racial disparity. That extends to prisons -- black people represent about 7 percent of the state’s population, but make up 36% of those behind bars.

“I believe that all of us -- police, prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges, corrections officials -- are complicit. I am complicit,” said Perry Moriearty, a University of Minnesota Law School professor. “We continue to operate within a system that, from its earliest days, has disproportionately criminalized, arrested, prosecuted, locked up and executed black and brown people.”

Laws enacted 30 years ago have led to over sentencing. In Minnesota, it’s possible to get life in prison just for being at the scene of a murder. And violent crimes are almost never commuted because a unanimous vote is required by the governor, attorney general and chief Supreme Court justice.

When Sen. Amy Kobuchar -- seen as a possible vice presidential pick -- was Hennepin County’s top prosecutor in 1998, her office worked to convict the alleged killers of two black kids hit by stray bullets in drive-by shootings.

The AP spent a year investigating one of those cases. Myon Burrell was 16 in 2002 when he was accused of firing a gun that killed 11-year-old Tyesha Edwards as she sat at her dining room table doing homework.

It happened blocks away from where Floyd was killed. In fact, Burrell maintained from the moment he was taken to the police station that Cup Foods -- the same convenience store where Floyd is accused of passing a counterfeit $20 bill -- was his alibi.

Surveillance tapes were never reviewed to check Burrell’s story, and friends with him that day were not interviewed. No DNA, fingerprints, or weapon was found in the case. Most of the jailhouse snitches used to convict Burrell have since recanted, and police are shown on a video offering a man $500 for every name he provides -- even if it’s hearsay. Burrell, now 34, was sentenced to life.

“Either an unarmed black man is being snuffed out by a racist white cop, or an innocent black boy is being railroaded … and having his life stolen,” he said.

The second case trumpeted by Klobuchar involved the 1996 gang-related shooting of 11-year-old Byron Phillips. Two years after his death, Klobuchar put up billboards requesting information.

Not long after, a man named Kawaskii Blanche was arrested.

Police have refused requests from the AP for four months to hand over reports and media files tied to the case, but court records and trial transcripts point to a dubious police probe and prosecution.

There was no physical evidence linking Blanche to the crime, and the sole hotline tip came from a woman who had 11 felony convictions and 13 aliases. She received $3,700 after saying she saw a gun and overheard Blanche, her nephew and others talking about the shooting. Before her nephew was scheduled to take the stand, a police officer encouraged the woman to write a letter to her nephew in jail, ensuring his story would be the same. Eyewitnesses did not testify.

Blanche, now 46, has been locked up for more than two decades. He is serving life.

“There are two judicial systems here in Minnesota,” said Burrell, who is housed in the same facility and has now served 18 years. “One for blacks and one for whites.”

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 441935

Reported Deaths: 5885
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin918591461
Ramsey39405729
Dakota32551324
Anoka30638354
Washington19827221
Stearns17686184
St. Louis13453237
Scott1178693
Wright11485101
Olmsted1024870
Sherburne812364
Carver686636
Clay643278
Rice595266
Kandiyohi551069
Blue Earth533833
Crow Wing476573
Otter Tail449860
Chisago446331
Benton414885
Winona383946
Douglas370366
Nobles364646
Mower358026
Goodhue340757
Polk326754
McLeod321644
Morrison308743
Beltrami305746
Lyon298735
Itasca281143
Becker279438
Isanti279440
Carlton276942
Steele26879
Pine263813
Freeborn237219
Todd230029
Nicollet222136
Brown212334
Mille Lacs211645
Le Sueur206515
Cass203823
Meeker197433
Waseca187515
Martin168226
Wabasha16712
Roseau164916
Hubbard146937
Redwood138527
Renville136139
Houston133213
Dodge13134
Chippewa130632
Cottonwood125118
Fillmore12084
Wadena118214
Rock108511
Sibley10757
Aitkin106633
Watonwan10548
Faribault103214
Kanabec96818
Pennington95915
Pipestone92522
Yellow Medicine92514
Murray8585
Jackson84510
Swift82617
Pope7355
Marshall70115
Stevens6968
Clearwater68114
Lac qui Parle65216
Lake62215
Wilkin6179
Koochiching57910
Lincoln4771
Big Stone4513
Unassigned43568
Grant4247
Norman4218
Mahnomen4077
Kittson36619
Red Lake3154
Traverse2433
Lake of the Woods1741
Cook1130

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 300884

Reported Deaths: 4197
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk44949440
Linn17563269
Scott15228161
Black Hawk13552228
Woodbury12896175
Johnson1191749
Dubuque11229148
Pottawattamie8863112
Dallas874169
Story857433
Webster464768
Cerro Gordo458766
Sioux452451
Clinton445461
Warren430637
Marshall424561
Buena Vista389029
Muscatine382275
Des Moines377340
Plymouth347967
Wapello336796
Jasper315955
Lee310828
Marion298852
Jones268949
Henry262130
Carroll252233
Bremer240048
Crawford227622
Boone214116
Washington213531
Benton207543
Mahaska189936
Jackson189631
Tama184757
Dickinson183225
Delaware171136
Kossuth169241
Clay165319
Wright161724
Fayette157022
Buchanan156920
Hamilton156828
Hardin153129
Harrison152961
Winneshiek150819
Clayton149848
Cedar149119
Butler145423
Page143115
Floyd137236
Cherokee137125
Mills135216
Lyon133132
Poweshiek131024
Hancock127924
Allamakee125927
Iowa122122
Calhoun12159
Jefferson118623
Grundy118522
Winnebago117229
Madison11639
Mitchell114634
Louisa113729
Cass111741
Chickasaw110111
Sac110115
Emmet109931
Appanoose108838
Union107922
Humboldt103919
Guthrie102124
Shelby101026
Franklin99818
Unassigned9370
Palo Alto8969
Keokuk84225
Montgomery82722
Howard81119
Monroe79918
Pocahontas77211
Clarke7717
Ida73530
Greene6837
Davis68221
Adair68120
Lucas6458
Osceola6349
Monona62316
Taylor5889
Worth5873
Fremont5005
Van Buren49112
Decatur4744
Ringgold4229
Wayne41321
Audubon4118
Adams2923
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