Minneapolis Henry student sues cop over restraint

  • Article by: RANDY FURST , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 14, 2012 - 9:38 PM

A lawsuit says that the officer tried to strangle 18-year-old. Cop says he was protecting himself and didn't harm the student.

A confrontation in January at Patrick Henry High School that ended when a Minneapolis police officer restrained an 18-year-old student has led to a federal lawsuit.

In a police report filed after the incident, officer Tyrone Barze Jr. said he was assaulted by the student, Dontae Thomas and, as a result, the officer "utilized a neck restraint" to control him. Barze said the teenager never lost consciousness. Thomas was not arrested or charged.

In his lawsuit, Thomas named Barze, officer Victor Mills and the city, saying he was choked unconscious.

The suit, filed by Minneapolis attorneys Robert Bennett and Andrew Noel, says Thomas had trouble breathing afterward and went to the Hennepin County Medical Center's clinic in St. Anthony Village, where a doctor found evidence of "injuries consistent with strangulation."

Thomas said in the suit that on Jan. 12, he was told by a member of the school staff that the officers wanted to talk to him "about allegedly disruptive lunchtime behavior."

The suit says that they ordered Thomas into a room, shut the door, and Barze attempted to search him. It said Thomas kept looking away and would not stand up at Barze's request, at which point Barze "used excessive force by using the neck restraint."

In the police report, Barze said he was off duty, helping out in the lunchroom, when he saw some students, one of whom was Thomas, almost get into a fight. He and Mills followed the students when the lunch bell rang.

Barze said they took Thomas into an office where Barze said he saw a bulge in Thomas' pocket and asked him to stand up so he could frisk him "for my safety." Thomas did not stand, Barze took his left arm, and Thomas "shot out of his chair" and fell to the floor, Barze wrote. At some point Thomas got up, knocked Barze into a metal file cabinet and they both fell to the floor, Barze said. "He was kicking at me and swinging his arms violently," he said, so he applied the neck restraint. The officers asked Thomas whether he wanted to see a nurse and he declined, Barze said.

Susan Segal, Minneapolis city attorney, said she had not reviewed the suit yet, so had no comment.

Randy Furst • 612-673-4224

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