7/25/2006 Newsletter


  • Emergency Rally and Press Conference--Justice for Fong Lee!
  • Minneapolis Park Police Raise Hell with Pastor
  • Zombie Dancer Protesters Arrested on Homeland Security Charge--Cops Claim Radios Were "Simulated WMDs"

Wednesday, July 26
3:00 p.m.
City Hall
350 S 5th Street, Minneapolis

We urge you if at all possible to join members of the Hmong community and others in expressing their grief at the loss of a community member at the hands of the Minneapolis police and demanding justice for the callous killing of Fong Lee, 19.

In its usual role as the unofficial mouthpiece of the MPD, the Star Tribune has vilified Lee--pegging him as a gang member without evidence--and glorified Jason Andersen, the cop who killed him.  There is significant evidence that Lee was shot in the back as he fled from the cops.  He was shot 9 times.

Perhaps even more appalling is the fact that interim police chief Tim Dolan returned Andersen to work today--before the investigation is over.  Seems he's already decided how that "investigation" will turn out.

Given the current climate and lack of police accountability under interim chief Dolan, it will take significant support from the community if the family is to get any justice in the death of this young man.  Please come to this rally if you can.

State trooper didn't fire in fatal shooting
July 25, 2006

A Minneapolis police officer was the only person to use a weapon in a deadly confrontation with a young man Saturday in north Minneapolis. Police say they have some video of the chase and shooting from a security camera.

Tom Ford and Howie Padilla, Star Tribune
The Minneapolis police officer involved in the fatal shooting of a suspect Saturday was the only one who fired in the confrontation, police said at a news conference Monday.

Craig Benz, 30, a state trooper who was on patrol with officer Jason Andersen at the time, and Fong Lee, 19, the suspect who was found with a semiautomatic handgun on him, did not fire their weapons, police said.

Andersen, who joined the Minneapolis Police Department in 2005 and is assigned to the Fourth Precinct, will return to duty in the precinct serving north Minneapolis today. He had been on paid administrative leave, a standard procedure in officer-involved shootings, since the shooting on the grounds of Cityview Elementary School.

"At this time, I feel I have adequate reason not to extend the administrative leave," said interim Police Chief Tim Dolan.

He didn't elaborate on his reasons, although he indicated that witness statements so far are consistent with Andersen's account of the incident.

This is the account police released Monday:

About 7 p.m. Saturday, Andersen and Benz were investigating suspicious activity near 3rd Street and 33rd Avenue N. when they saw what appeared to be a hand-to-hand drug transaction among a group of people.

As they got of their squad car, Lee, who was the recipient in the transaction, fled and the officers chased him.

They also noticed that Lee had what appeared to be a gun.

The chase continued for a little more than a block around to the north side of the school, which has several mounted security cameras that take intermittent photos. There is videotape of part of the chase and the immediate aftermath. Although the tape is still being processed, it shows Lee with an object in his hand, Andersen close behind him and Benz a distance back.

Eventually, Andersen had a "face-to-face confrontation" with Lee and shot him.

At the Monday news conference, police displayed the Russian-made semiautomatic handgun found at the scene. It was loaded with seven rounds.

Dolan and other police officials wouldn't release any other details of the confrontation, saying that the case is still being investigated by the homicide and internal affairs units.

According to the Hennepin County medical examiner's office, Lee died of multiple gunshot wounds. A police news release sent earlier in the day said that the medical examiner had released a preliminary report that is consistent with the officers' account of a face-to-face confrontation with Lee.

As he asked for members of the public who had any information about the case to come forward, Capt. Rich Stanek said police would like to talk to three young men who were with Lee when Andersen and Benz arrived. Stanek said police don't know the names of the young men, who fled by bike or foot as Lee was being chased.

Anyone with information can call police at 612-692-TIPS.

Metro Gang Strike Force Commander Ron Ryan said Lee was known to associate with gang members.

Minneapolis police arrested Lee and three others Jan. 12 along the 2900 block of N. Bryant Avenue, after officers responded to a report of people breaking into a vacant house by kicking in the front door, according to a police report.

Lee pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor trespassing charge, an official said. He was fined $200 and placed on probation for a year.

His father, Nou Kai Lee, has described him as being a homebody. Relatives said he had gone to play basketball with friends at the school.

Hmong community leaders, who met with members of Lee's family Monday night in St. Paul, said they plan to help them find out exactly what happened.

"We want to know the answers," said Vang Lo, chairman of the Hmong 18 Council.

Lo expressed concern that Andersen is being put back on duty when investigators still have not concluded whether his actions were "right or wrong," and when the family still has limited information, he said.

Elk River Police Chief Jeff Beahen said that before he began work in Minneapolis, Andersen was highly decorated officer there. In 2003, he earned the Chief's Award for his work in methamphetamine and cocaine cases.

The state Department of Public Safety said Benz joined the patrol in 2002 and has two commendations and no disciplinary actions against him.

Benz is among a handful of state troopers on a summer assignment to help Minneapolis police fight crime on the North Side.

Doug Grow: Minneapolis park police raise the devil with a pastor
July 25, 2006
Doug Grow, Star Tribune

I've lived in Minneapolis since 1979 and have spent hundreds of hours at the city's lakes. This doesn't make me unique.

In all that lake time, I've never been approached by a Minneapolis park police officer. I didn't think this made me unique, either.

But Terry Williams, who has been pastor at the First Community Baptist Church in Minneapolis for nine years, had a different sort of lake experience shortly after noon last Thursday.

Williams, who is black, was parked on the street near the northwest edge of Lake Calhoun. Because he was going to take a stroll around the lake, the pastor was dressed casually, in blue shorts and a blue shirt.

Prior to his walk, he was standing next to his vehicle, talking to his mother on his cell phone.

A park police officer passed once, then a second time. The officer, Williams said, looked him over carefully, then parked her car.

According to Williams, the two had this exchange:

"Come to my car," the officer said.

"For what?" Williams asked. "You come to me."

"You need to come to my car," the officer said.

"I haven't broken any laws," Williams said.

As the exchange continued, the officer told Williams that cars in the park had been broken into.

"Basically, what you're saying is that you've profiled me," Williams said.

At no point, Williams said, did he curse or raise his voice. But at some point, the officer called for backup.

Several patrol cars -- from Minneapolis police and park police -- arrived.

Traffic was backed up. People stopped to gawk as Williams was patted down and put in the back of a park police car.

"It was humiliating and frustrating," Williams said.

He said a couple of Minneapolis cops made fun of him, for calling himself "Pastor" Williams.

After police escorted him to his vehicle so he could show them his identification, he was released -- without an apology. He said the incident lasted about 20 minutes.

"If the officer would have come up and asked me for identification, I gladly would have shown it," Williams said. "But this was just wrong."

Park police Chief Brad Johnson said Monday that he is investigating the incident, but that he had been unable to reach Williams.

"I'll be able to say something Tuesday," the chief said. "So far, I've only been hearing about this via rumors."

Williams spoke of the incident during his services Sunday. On Monday, members of the church made dozens of calls to Minneapolis police, park police and the office of Mayor R.T. Rybak.

Rybak's spokesman, Jeremy Hanson, said the mayor's office "has no control of park police" because they report to the Park Board.

Williams said he's seeking more than an apology. He wants to see police attitudinal changes.

"I want our people, our people to be able to go to the park and be treated with respect, not like a suspect," he said.

"In 2006, you shouldn't get treated like this."

Gee, disrespectful treatment from police never has been a problem for me. Of course, I'm not a pastor.

Six people were arrested in downtown Minneapolis on Saturday, July 22.  Police claimed the radios they were carrying were "simulated weapons of mass destruction."  The five adults and one minor were dressed up as zombies to protest consumer culture and the war.  They were initially held on $30,000 bail each but were eventually released without bail.  It is unclear if they will be charged.  There is little doubt, though, that these arrests were an effort to chill the expression of free speech by these individuals, who had held similar protests in the past without incident.  Apparently, the protester's "ghoulish makeup" violated some imaginary law in the minds of members of the "ever vigilant" MPD.

'Zombie dancers' spend their weekend in lockup
Minneapolis police arrested the group on suspicion of having "simulated weapons of mass destruction," but no charges filed.

Chao Xiong, Star Tribune
July 25, 2006

In the middle of downtown Minneapolis Saturday night, police found seven people clustered on a street corner, some pale-faced and covered in fake blood and wearing tattered clothes. A few carried backpacks with protruding wires.

It was, participants said later, a "zombie dance party," in which a group of young friends dress in sometimes outlandish attire and congregate in public places to dance to music from portable stereos carried on their backs.

But when the dancers wouldn't tell police concerned about the mysterious wires, give their names or provide identification, they ended up arrested, held in jail until Monday afternoon on suspicion of having "simulated weapons of mass destruction."

None have been charged.

Police say the group was uncooperative and intimidated passersby with their "ghoulish" makeup at a time when officers were on high alert in reaction to a bulletin about men in other states who wear clown makeup while attacking and robbing people, said Inspector Janee Harteau.

"Given the circumstance of them being uncooperative ... why would you have those [bags] if not to intimidate people?" Harteau said. "It's not a case of [police] overreacting."

Kate Kibby, who was one of those arrested, had a different opinion. She said the group met at the Nicollet Mall light-rail station for a "zombie dance party," which generally occur in public spaces. Sometimes, she said, strangers join in. The parties have occurred without arrest at the Mall of America and on light-rail trains, she said.

The group -- six adults and a juvenile -- had just finished watching a drum line near 6th Street and Hennepin Avenue when two officers approached, asked for identification and refused to say why they were being questioned, Kibby said. "We should have had an explanation as to why [they wanted our identification] and they weren't giving it to us," she said.

Christian Utne, one of the event organizers, said that happened about 45 minutes after two different officers approached them on Nicollet Mall and asked them to turn down the volume of their music. Those officers then left the group alone, he said.

"It was absolutely ridiculous," said Utne. "Outrageous."

Kibby, Utne and police agree that group members initially did not reveal their identities. But Kibby said the group -- not knowing what would happen -- did cooperate and follow the two officers to the First Precinct.

The two original officers didn't appear to think the backpacks were bombs, said Kibby, who said she had a messenger bag. They weren't searched until after they arrived at the First Precinct, where she said several officers appeared to be making fun of them, she said.

Police spokesman Lt. Greg Reinhardt said reports show that there were "four items that were used to simulate an explosive device."

Members of the group could still face lesser charges, such as disorderly conduct, police said. Kibby said group members are considering legal action.

"It was clear to us that they were trying to get a rise out of us," she said.

Communities United Against Police Brutality
3100 16th Avenue S
Minneapolis, MN 55407
Hotline 612-874-STOP (7867)

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