Minneapolis community activist Al Flowers was released from jail and recovering at home on Sunday from head and face wounds he allegedly received at the hands of Minneapolis police, according to family members and friends.
Bobby Joe Champion, Flowers’ attorney and a state senator, said he could see blood seeping through the gauze bandages on Flowers’ scalp when he visited him in the Hennepin County jail midday on Saturday. Champion said he could see Flowers’ face was swollen and that he had stitches closing cuts on his face. Blood leaking from a head wound also was evident on the booking photo of Flowers released by the Hennepin County Sheriff’s office on Sunday.
About the same time Flowers was released from jail, Minneapolis Police Chief Janeé Harteau and Mayor Betsy Hodges called a news conference at Shiloh Temple and said they could disclose no information on the incident because it is being investigated. They declined to answer any questions.
“As police chief I’m frustrated … because we cannot talk about what happened as this case moves through the legal process,” Harteau said. “For that reason, I am asking you and the members of the general public to please withhold judgment.” Harteau did not refer to Flowers by name, calling him “the activist.” Hodges said “We all want the best outcome as the legal process moves forward.”
According to Champion and others, officers arrived at Flowers’ south Minneapolis home sometime after midnight on Saturday to arrest his 16-year-old daughter for an electronic home monitoring violation.
Ron Edwards, longtime civil rights activist and friend of Flowers, said earlier that Flowers’ daughter, who wore a monitoring device anklet because of past scrapes with the law, received a two-hour pass at 4:30 p.m. on Friday to go to Hennepin County Medical Center for a health issue or a “female problem.” She did not return home until 10:30 p.m., Edward said, but added that the girl has a document from the hospital noting that she was not released until then.
Officers showed up at Flowers’ home about 90 minutes later, Edwards said. The girl answered the door, he said, then called for her father. Champion said Flowers asked to see the arrest warrant, but officers either did not or could not produce it.
A fight ensued. Who started it was unclear.
Police took Flowers into custody and he was treated at Hennepin County Medical Center (HCMC), then booked into the jail about 4:30 a.m. on Saturday for probable-cause assault and obstruction.
The police report said Flowers assaulted officer Christopher Reiter with his fists and Reiter suffered bruises. The report notes that Flowers received medical treatment, but lists only “prior injury.”
“I did not see any injuries to Mr. Flowers’ hands, nothing to symbolize he had been punching anything,” Champion said Sunday. “But then again I’m a J.D., not an M.D.”
Flowers, 55, spoke out last week about the increasing violence in north Minneapolis. He has been critical of police on several fronts, most recently about the lack of black recruits being hired by the department. He has sued the city numerous times over disputes ranging from a bogus marijuana-possession charge to freedom of speech in connection with his former public-access TV show.
Flowers is a former mayoral candidate and co-founder of the Minneapolis Community Standards Initiative and the North Side Stop the Violence Committee, both started to try to stem the rash of homicides and youth-on-youth violence. He has served on the now-disbanded Police Community Relations Council.
Edwards said Flowers’ sister, Lisa Clemons, a former Minneapolis police sergeant, was not allowed to see her brother in the emergency room at HCMC. She had heard part of the conversation between Flowers and the officers, then the fight after her niece called her and kept the cellphone line open.
Clemons didn’t return phone messages on Sunday. Edwards said he, Clemons and others have reached out to Chief Harteau and Mayor Hodges to have a meeting to discuss the incident.
When a reporter showed up at Flowers’ house on Sunday evening, a woman answered the door saying that Flowers did not feel up to talking.
“We want to leave space for a thorough investigation to be conducted,” Champion said. “But by all indicators … no warrant was presented to Mr. Flowers. And he asked. Like any person, he just asked for a copy of the warrant. That doesn’t mean you’re hiding anything … It means you’re exercising your right as a citizen of the United States.”