An ex-Minneapolis police officer with a history of excessive force has been charged with felony third-degree assault, accused of kicking a man in the face during a domestic assault call last year.
A warrant has been issued for the arrest of Christopher Michael Reiter, 36, of Minneapolis, in connection with the May 2016 incident, which left 35-year-old Mohamed Osman with a broken nose and traumatic brain injury, according to the criminal complaint.
Reiter has since been fired from the department, although he is appealing his termination.
Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said during a news conference that the three other officers who responded to the call “said the situation did not call for a kick in the face.”
“In this case, a kick to the face is a use of deadly force, and simply not justified,” Freeman said. He said the incident was captured on video which he declined to release.
Osman said in an interview that the traumatic brain injury has prevented him from working and caring for his children.
Reiter could not be reached for comment, but his attorney, Robert Fowler, said the use of force was legally justified.
“My client did not have the vantage point of the security camera footage — he was perceiving and processing what he saw happening from a different point of view, coupled with information he had at the time,” Fowler said in a statement. “Hindsight is not available to police officers acting in the moment of their difficult duties.”
Reiter is expected to turn himself in Thursday. His first court appearance is scheduled for Thursday.
St. Paul police investigated the incident to avoid a conflict of interest, Freeman said.
Freeman said another officer kicked Osman in the stomach “with the top of his boot,” but he will not be charged.
Reiter is the second Minneapolis police officer this year to be charged with assault. In January, officer Efrem Hamilton was charged with felony second-degree assault for shooting at a car full of people during a downtown melee in December 2016.
The incident “takes away from the great strides we make daily to build public trust,” Police Chief Janeé Harteau said in a statement.
“I have dealt with this matter internally,” she said, “and we remain committed to creating a culture of accountability within the MPD. These actions are not consistent with our core values and we take that very seriously.”
Lt. Bob Kroll, president of the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis, said in a statement that the union will support Reiter as his case goes through the legal system.
Records show that Reiter has had eight complaints filed against him and two lawsuits accusing him of using excessive force, including a 2014 case where he’s accused of kicking a victim, that was also captured on video.
Asked if he’s considering charging Reiter for the other allegations, Freeman responded, “I don’t believe so.”
According to court records, police were sent to the 2900 block of Chicago Avenue South about 3:40 a.m. on May 30 on a report of a domestic assault. Osman had severely beaten his girlfriend, repeatedly punching her then strangling her to unconsciousness. She had to be taken to the hospital, where she was diagnosed with a nasal fracture and needed braces to prevent her teeth from falling out.
When police arrived they saw Osman sitting in a car and ordered him to get out and get on the ground. As he was on his hands and knees, Reiter approached him and kicked him in the face, according to the criminal complaint. Osman collapsed to the ground unconscious and bleeding. An ambulance was called and he was taken to a hospital, where he was diagnosed with a displaced nasal bone, nasal septal fractures and a mild traumatic brain injury.
No use of force is mentioned in the police report Reiter filed after the incident.
Surveillance video from a nearby building captured the assault, where Reiter is seen quickly approaching the victim “and violently kicking him in the face” within seconds, according to charges.
Osman told the Star Tribune on Wednesday that he did not know why he was beaten. He said two officers were involved, Reiter and Josh Domek.
“I woke up in a hospital two days later,” he said.
Osman’s attorney, Carson Heefner, said police reports described Osman as making movements that he was going to resist.
“The video completely contradicts police reports,” Heefner said.
Osman pleaded guilty to third degree assault in January as part of a plea deal and will be sentenced on March 23.
History with the MPD
Reiter has a long history of being accused of excessive force, according to police and court records. Minneapolis police have investigated eight complaints filed against him since 2013. Two of those remain open, while the rest resulted in no disciplinary actions. No other information is available on the complaints.
Reiter has been sued twice over excessive force.
He and another cop, Jon Schliesing, were cleared in September 2015 of wrongdoing in the arrest of community activist Al Flowers. Flowers sued Reiter and the city in federal court over the incident, arguing that the officers used excessive force to unjustly arrest him when they came to his home about midnight on July 25, 2014, looking for his daughter.
In the other lawsuit, Shawn Ross managed a south Minneapolis SuperAmerica gas station when he tried to break up a fight. Police arrived and ordered everyone on the ground. The Sept. 13, 2014, incident was captured by a security cameras.
Surveillance footage shows Reiter quickly approaching Ross, who was on his knees with his hands on his head, with his gun drawn and then apparently kicking him in the chest.
Ross’ attorney Paul Applebaum, who filed a federal excessive force suit on his behalf, said that the most recent allegations against the officer demonstrated a disturbing pattern of misconduct.
“After these series of incidents, the only conclusion that one can draw is that Officer Reiter should work in another field,” Applebaum said on Wednesday.
The case is scheduled to go to trial on June 13, after Ross’ attorneys rejected the city’s last settlement offer.
In August 2015, three prostitution cases were dismissed, including one involving Reiter, who was found to have engaged in “outrageous sexual conduct” that violated a woman’s due process rights while he was doing undercover work at a south Minneapolis parlor in November 2014.
Hennepin County Judge Amy Dawson wrote in her Aug. 7 dismissal order that Reiter “initiated sexual contact that isn’t required for the collection of evidence to establish elements of the offense.”
Nearly 20 minutes into his interaction with the woman, court documents say, Reiter pointed to his groin after she asked “if there were any areas she had missed.” She started to rub his genitals and they negotiated a price for further action “that would take care of him,” the documents say.
Staff writers Libor Jany and Randy Furst contributed to this report.