A magistrate judge is recommending that a higher federal court judge dismiss a lawsuit brought by the father of a man shot to death by Minneapolis police after allegedly exchanging gunfire during a chase and then using a stolen car to try to run down officers in 2009.
Magistrate Judge Jeanne Graham said that the father, who had no lawyer, failed repeatedly to attend hearings or otherwise comply with court orders after suing over the Feb. 5, 2009, death of Ahmed Mohamed Guled, 23, of St. Paul.
A U.S. District Court judge is to make a final determination later. Graham recommended a type of dismissal that would allow the father to file another lawsuit, particularly after finding an attorney. He has been representing himself thus far.
Friday’s recommendation comes as the city of Minneapolis is defending itself against about 60 lawsuits alleging that police officers used excessive force that led to injuries, with most of them filed since 2011.
One of six officers named in the Guled suit is Minneapolis officer Shawn Powell, who is now under internal investigation and on administrative leave due to an unrelated incident. He’s accused of using racial slurs and also derogatory statements about police Chief Janeé Harteau’s sexual orientation.
Saturday, after learning of the judge’s recommendation, Guled’s father, Mohamed G. Abdi of St. Paul, broke down in tears.
A Somali immigrant who speaks little English, Abdi explained through a translator that he missed an important proceeding because he fell ill in Kenya, where he was visiting relatives, and that an airline would not let him board a flight.
Abdi said he telephoned the federal court to let them know of his predicament.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeanne Graham wrote in dismissal papers that the plaintiff had filed a complaint in February 2012 but little else, including failing to provide required information to the city’s attorneys. In April 2012, the father requested a translator for all appearances, but the court told him that would be up to him to arrange.
Graham noted that on June 26, 2012 — two days before an important proceeding — Abdi had called her chambers, advising that he would be Africa until mid-August. The judge rescheduled the proceeding until Aug. 24, 2012, stressing that it would not be rescheduled again.
After the father again did not appear for the rescheduled proceeding, Graham said that if the plaintiff “failed to provide initial disclosures in a timely fashion, the matter would be dismissed for failure to prosecute.”
Saturday, as he met with the distraught father, Omar Jamal of the Somali Mission to the United Nations said that funds would be raised to help the parents get an attorney.
“What you have here is an average father with completely limited English language [abilities] … and basically zero understanding of how the system functions,” Jamal said. “We will provide him a lawyer and we will take any action that is available in the legal system.”
The father began weeping when he spoke of his son, saying he was a “nice guy” and that an autopsy found that he wasn’t under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Jamal translated for him.
Abdi said he does not know why his son was driving a stolen vehicle. Translating for Abdi, Jamal noted that the son “had his whole life ahead of him.”
The Minneapolis Police Department did not immediately comment Saturday about the recommended dismissal of the Guled suit.
The department had placed six officers on three days of paid administrative leave following the killing of Ahmed Guled. Three officers had fired at him: Powell, along with Christopher Garbisch and Jeffrey Newman.
Guled was shot repeatedly and died at the scene.
Feb. 5, 2009
Guled had been driving a stolen vehicle when two officers in cruisers began chasing him through the city’s North Side on Feb. 5, 2009. The stolen vehicle, with two cruisers in pursuit, was swerving erratically and didn’t stop, the judge’s report says.
As he was pursued, Guled drove into an unrelated police scene and was shot after speeding toward four officers standing in the street, according to police, who had video of the incident, as well as witness accounts.
Graham’s recommendation comes amid controversy over a recent incident in Green Bay, Wis. Powell and Brian Thole were off-duty when they got into a street brawl in June and then used slurs while berating local police officers who responded, according to the Green Bay Police Department.
The incident has prompted Harteau and other police officials to step up efforts to meet with people in the community in an effort to rebuild damaged community relations.