Two Minneapolis police officers were exonerated Wednesday of any wrongdoing after an investigation into the arrest last summer of community activist Al Flowers.
But the attorney representing Flowers said the investigation was flawed, pointing out what he said was misinformation in the report and noting that the “vastly different” accounts by the two officers involved in the arrest “doesn’t pass the smell test.”
Although Flowers was arrested, he never was charged in that incident.
Flowers, who has sued the city in federal court over the incident, argued that the officers used excessive force to unjustly arrest him when they came to his home about midnight on July 25, 2014. Officers Jon Schliesing and Christopher Reiter originally came to arrest Flowers’ teenage daughter for violating the terms of her electronic home monitoring. But they ended up arresting Flowers for obstructing the legal process and used force because they said Flowers physically resisted.
Flowers was treated at Hennepin County Medical Center for injuries, including a cut to his head that required six stitches. In an interview after the incident, Flowers said he didn’t resist officers but insisted on seeing a warrant for his daughter’s arrest.
Flowers argued that the officers, who are white, arrested him and used excessive force — improperly and unnecessarily restraining and striking him — because he’s black and a vocal community activist who has advocated on behalf of blacks who have been subjected to excessive force by police.
Minneapolis lawyer Donald Lewis, hired by the city to investigate the incident, concluded that the officers had sufficient justification to arrest Flowers for obstructing the legal process because he intentionally prevented the officers from taking him into the custody. In his report, he noted that the officers’ and Flowers’ accounts differed regarding the physical altercation. But the investigation also noted that Flowers had reason to be upset when the officers didn’t produce a copy of the warrant for his daughter’s arrest.
“The officers could have exercised their discretion to de-escalate the confrontation,” Lewis said in his report. But he concluded the officers didn’t abuse their discretion by acting quickly to accomplish the purpose of their call, “especially given the circumstances of a difficult nighttime encounter in a confined and potentially dangerous space.”
Based on that report, the Police Conduct Review Panel, made up of two Minneapolis police lieutenants, two civilians and the police chief, agreed that the officers did not violate police policy.
“We know that anyone who had been contracted by the city or any government entity will come out and say the police did not use excessive force,” said Bobby Joe Champion, Flowers’ attorney.
Among the flaws in the report are the differing accounts by the officers during the incident, Champion said. How can you have two officers in the same place at the same time give two different stories? he asked.
“This is a case where a body camera would have served us all,” Champion said.
“If this had happened in Edina, this doesn’t quite pass the smell test,” Champion said. “Why would they be coming to the house at 11:30 p.m. at night and not expect a responsible parent to ask, ‘What’s going on?’ And then he ends up with all these bruises and lacerations. He didn’t resist arrest. … He was a model citizen. He opened the door, he talked to the police.”
Flowers, who said he was disappointed with the investigator’s conclusion, said he will continue with his lawsuit that contends the officers used excessive force. A routine hearing on it is scheduled later in September. A complaint Flowers filed with the city’s Civil Rights Department was closed in February without anyone ever contacting him, he said.