The Minneapolis City Council council approved a $3.075 million settlement on Friday to resolve a federal law suit filed by the family of David Smith, a 28-year-eight old Minneapolis man, who was killed during a struggle with two police officers at the downtown Minneapolis YMCA in 2010.
(Video above was produced on Feb. 6, 2012.)
The settlement is the second largest payout for a police misconduct lawsuit in the history of Minneapolis. The city will pay the Smith family $1.1 million and $1.975 million in attorneys fees to the Minneapolis law firm of Gaskins Bennett Birrell Schupp. It's second only to the $4.5 million paid in 2007 to a Minneapolis officer shot by another officer.
The death of Smith raised questions about putting a suspect on his stomach, and holding him down by putting knees on his back, known as prone restraint. The Hennepin County Medical Examiner ruled the death a homicide.
In a statement issued after the council action, Susan Segal, Minneapolis city attorney said "today's settlement is a responsible way to bring this to a close in the face of mounting legal costs that would continue to grow significantly through a trial."
Former Washburn High School Principal Carol Markham-Cousins has been assigned to run a tiny high school operating inside Hennepin County's Juvenile Detention Center for next school year.
Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson announced the assignment on Wednesday in releasing a list of principal assignments for next school year.
The district said that Markham-Cousins has accepted the assignment at a school for pretrial suspects. The school opened the year with 41 students and was down to 19 at last count. The facility can hold 87 juveniles.
She would replace retiring Larry Lucio, who was assigned by the district to the school, known as Stadium View, in 2007 after he was abruptly pulled from leading Edison High School during the school year. Lucio is retiring after more than 40 years as an educator.
Markham-Cousins also was reassigned abruptly during the school year. Johnson removed her in mid-April after a difficult year that culminated with a student walkout in support of the school's athletic director, Daniel Pratt. The district has said that investigations involving both are still proceeding.
The Stadium View assignment will put Markham-Cousins back with the type of underdog student that she fought hard to educate in her turnaround role at Washburn. One third of students qualify for special education and nealry all meet the federal poverty threshold for school lunch. She'll supervise a school staff of about 15, compared to 118 at Washburn.
Other principals appointed Wednesday to fill retirement vacancies include Ronald Salazar, Folwell School Performing Arts Magnet, who has been instructional leader at Minnesota Transitions charter school, succeeding Sharon Engel; Aaron Drevlow, Lake Harriet Community School, who has been an assistant principal at Stillwater's Red Pony Student Center, following Mary Rynchek; Andree James, Lyndale Community School, where she has been interim principal since January following the retirement of Ossie Brooks James; and Emily Lilja Palmer, Sanford Middle School, an assistant principal at Richfield Middle School, following Meredith Davis.
Arson investigators are asking for the public's help in solving three arson cases in 21 days in the McKinley neighborhood of north Minneapolis.
The most recent fire lit a garage at Tuesday evening, and was the second involving a garage, police said in appealing for tips.. The third fire was set at the rear of a house in the early hours Tuesday. Investigators said that another garage fire remains unsolved in the neighborhood from November. Damage estimates were not immediately available.
The fires for which locations have been reported cluster near 33rd and Bryant Avenues N.
Police asked people with information on the fires to call Sgrt. Sean McKenna at 612-673-3389 or the arson hotline at 1-800-723-2020.
Two men were walking to Mickey’s Liquor in north Minneapolis to buy a pack of cigarettes one evening last week when they saw a police car speed past them down Fremont Avenue.
“Oh, he’s after somebody!” joked one of the men, Jermaine Taris, as his friend Cory James reached into his pocket for some change. “Somebody’s going to jail tonight.”
He just didn’t think it was them.
The squad car quickly turned around and pulled up to Taris and James. The officer pointed a gun at them and ordered them to get on the ground.
Taris later told me that he put his hands up and asked what was happening, but the officer ordered him down again. They put him and James in separate cars in the liquor store parking lot on Plymouth Avenue. Taris saw something on the officer’s computer about a black male in a t-shirt armed with a gun.
By this time, a half dozen people had congregated outside of Mickey’s to watch as Taris and James were put in separate police cars. A third police car arrived. They waited.
I stumbled on the scene while driving down Plymouth Avenue, pulling into the parking lot after seeing the commotion outside. I asked the onlookers what was happening.
“They’re looking for a gun,” somebody said.
In a four-part series this March, the Star Tribune documented the scourge of youth gun violence and revealed that Minneapolis and St. Paul police have seized 8,000 guns off the streets in the last five years. Many of those guns came from north Minneapolis, which has seen children as young as three, five, and 13 shot to death in recent years. Parents and community leaders are pressing for the shootings to stop, and authorities have made it a priority to get illegally-held firearms off the streets
I lingered outside Mickey’s to see what would happen because it’s so rare to get a glimpse of how police tackle the problem – the department months ago rejected a request by my partner on the gun series, reporter Matt McKinney, to allow the Star Tribune to ride along with police officers as they made gun arrests.
This time, police came up empty. They didn’t find a gun on Taris and James. They didn’t even find warrants.
Instead, they let the two men go with an apology.
The officers drove away before I could talk with them, but Taris and James hung around, frustrated and embarrassed.
“They thought we had a gun – we were walking down the street minding our own business,” said Taris.
“Just because you’re walking?” asked a guy outside the liquor store. “Are you serious?”
“He had change and was putting change in his pocket,” said Taris, referring to James, “and the cop pulled us over talking about how he had a gun.”
“Racial profiling,” fumed the guy. “Racial profiling.”
Both men are black. Taris, 32, said he is studying graphic design at Minneapolis Community and Technical College while working as a retail associate at Kohl’s. James, 24, said he is a landscaper.
Sgt. Stephen McCarty later said while he couldn’t speak specifically about the case, “we try to balance public safety with not infringing on innocent people’s rights. But if we get a call with a description we’re compelled to check it out. And I think most people in the community understand that. We trust our officers to act in good faith in any situation.”
Taris acknowledged that the area suffers from gun crime, noting that he’s been robbed at gunpoint on Plymouth Avenue multiple times.
But he doesn’t know what to think anymore.
“I’ve never just seen people get stopped here without reason,” Taris said. “I’m more or less disappointed in the system.”
U.S. District Judge Michael Davis, chief federal judge in Minnesota, has expressed deep concern about the impact that sequestration will have on the U.S. judiciary, including Minnesota.
"The cuts to the judiciary are going to change the administration of justice in the United States," Davis warned in an interview.
While no furloughs in Minnesota courts have been announced, other court districts around the country have reported major reductions. In the Central District of California, which covers Los Angeles, staff are being furloughed and court services will be reduced on seven Fridays from April through August. The courthouses will be open, but the clerk’s office will be closed, except for the criminal intake section and specified emergency civil filings.
"When I see that it happens to the Central District of California, I know that more than likely it will spread across the country," Davis said.
Katherian Roe, chief federal public defender in Minnesota, said her office has enough funds to make it through the fiscal year which ends in October without any layoffs or furloughs.
But she said that Federal Office of Defender Services may consider taking back funds currently allocated to Minnesota to help offices that are in worse shape. "That would create a situation where0 we would not have adequate funding to staff our office," she said.
Davis said he will be meeting with the local federal defenders office this week. He said that without an "appropriate level" of funding for both the judiciary and the federal defenders office "the rule of law which we hold so sacred will vanish."
Federal court cutbacks, including, in some cases, furloughs, are going into effect in the Northern District of California, Colorado, Delaware, the Western District of New York, the Eastern District of Misouri, Utah and the Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York, according to "The Third Branch News," a U.S. Judiciary on-line newsletter, published Tuesday.
Jeanne Cooney, spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Minnesota, said that if the sequestration "goes much longer, we may have some major cuts, which may include furloughs. We are waiting for direction from the U.S. Attorney General’s office," she said. "If there are furloughs, it will include attorneys and staff."
Sharon Lubinski, the U.S. Marshal in Minnesota, said she expects a decision this month from the Justice Department on whether U.S. Marshals will face furloughs. Furloughs have been "seriously discussed," she said.
If furloughs occur "it will be the same across the board" for marshal’s offices around the country, said Lubinski.
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