Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges and Police Chief Janeé Harteau are calling for an independent investigation of the altercation and arrest of community activist Al Flowers over the weekend.
Hodges said in a news release late Tuesday that all involved “are best served by an independent investigation.”
“I believe an outside investigation is necessary in this case to avoid any appearance of impropriety in the handling of this investigation,” Harteau said in a statement.
Police find themselves at the center of the Flowers controversy in a week that also brought a renewed spotlight on unsolved crimes in the city.
Dozens came together in north Minneapolis on Tuesday to remember what would have been the sixth birthday of Terrell Mayes Jr., who was killed nearly three years ago when he was hit in his home by a stray bullet.
“We have faith in God that whoever it was will turn themselves in,” said Marsha Mayes, Terrell’s mother. She has fought for nearly three years to find the person responsible for killing her son. Despite billboards and a $60,000 reward, police have not found a suspect. “I’m letting him rest in peace, but my feet are not stopping,” Mayes said.
Groups also call for review
Hodges’ call for an outside investigation in the Flowers case came hours after leaders of the local NAACP and Urban League chapters convened in north Minneapolis to demand an outside review.
“We want to sit at the table and we choose that investigator together,” local NAACP President Jerry McAfee said. “Then I think we can begin to talk about establishing some trust with the Police Department.”
Flowers was arrested after authorities came to his home early Saturday to investigate an alleged home-monitoring violation by his daughter. A scuffle ensued, and Flowers was hospitalized after the arrest with cuts to his scalp and face. An officer was bitten during the arrest and required medical attention as well, according to a police union spokesman.
Flowers has not yet been charged; he was released from jail pending the outcome of a police investigation.
Hodges said the city plans to name the special investigator in coming days.
Flowers, 55, is a longtime leader in the black community, having run for mayor in 2009, hosting a city-cable television show and gaining stature for publicly criticizing the Police Department.
Several people who spoke at the Urban League forum said the fallout from Flowers’ arrest has damaged relations between the black community and the Police Department.
“For a man to be beat down in his own home like that is a reminder of how far we haven’t come as a community and as a country,” said Scott Gray, president and chief executive of the Urban League. “We will walk with Al to the end to be sure that justice is served.”
Honoring lives cut short
At the rally to honor Terrell, the boy’s picture hung from the window of the blue house on Colfax Avenue N. as family and friends celebrated his short life. He was fatally shot a day after Christmas in 2011 as he held a bowl of spaghetti for dinner. He was 3 years old when he died.
Mayes and her three sons have moved away, but she continues to come back to the block where they used to live.
She says the block has gotten more quiet in the past two years — she thinks the gangs have started to stay away from the street. She hopes to raise $2,000 to pay for the empty plot of land adjacent to her old house and turn it into a garden where kids can play.
“I want them to come here and not just think this is where Terrell died,” Mayes said.
Angela Anvent, a north Minneapolis mother, led a group of about 40 neighbors, bikers and police officers in a march through the surrounding area. During the march, the group stopped to pray at different places where local residents have died from shootings. “We have to stop the killing,” she said.
A string of shootings involving north Minneapolis children followed Terrell’s death, sparking protest and pleas from community members to find those responsible and beef up enforcement. Five-year-old Nizzel George was shot in the back while he slept on his grandmother’s couch in June 2012. A 2-month-old boy shot in north Minneapolis was left in critical condition in September, and two other children were wounded earlier last summer.
At least 154 shootings have taken place in Minneapolis this year through July 20, according to police records, with 42 arrests.