Botched raid costs Minneapolis $600,000

  • Article by: NORMAN DRAPER , a nd S TEVE BRANDT
  • Updated: December 13, 2008 - 7:38 AM

In a deal OK'd by the City Council, Minneapolis will pay a family more than $600,000 after a SWAT team wrongly raided its home.

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Flanked by her husband, Vang Khang, and attorney Thomas Heffelfinger, Yee Moua talked Friday about how a botched, heavily armed police raid of the family’s north Minneapolis home last December has affected their children. The City Council approved a settlement Friday of more than $600,000 for the family.

Photo: David Joles, Star Tribune

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The money helps, but the trauma remains.

A family whose lives were shattered by a mistaken police raid a year ago have been awarded a $612,498 settlement by the city of Minneapolis to make amends.

The settlement, approved by the City Council on Friday, includes a flat $600,000 payment, which includes purchase of the home, and lesser amounts for medical care and rental housing.

In addition, the city will take over remaining mortgage payments on the home, said Thomas Heffelfinger, attorney for Vang Khang and Yee Moua. He said that totals $185,000 and saves the family from possible foreclosure proceedings.

The award is the latest in several payments to victims injured by city employees during the past decade, including a $4.5 million settlement with Duy Ngo, who was shot by a fellow Minneapolis officer during an undercover operation.

"It's only a mistake for them, but it changed our lives forever," Moua said Friday at a news conference held at Heffelfinger's office. "We want what's best for our children. It's a miracle we survived that night. No amount of money can fix what we went through that night."

Acting on wrong information from an informant, a SWAT team broke into Vang Khang's north Minneapolis house last December expecting to find gang members and illegal activity.

But Vang thought the SWAT team members were criminal intruders and shot through his bedroom door to protect his wife and six children, ages 3 to 15. Three officers were hit, but were not injured because they were wearing protective gear. The family also escaped injury even though police fired at least 22 rounds.

Police later admitted that the raid was a mistake and apologized to the family. Heffelfinger said police, who were looking for black suspects, should have realized that a Hmong family resided at the home, at 1321 Logan Av. N., because of various Hmong-related "ornaments and other things" both on the outside and inside of the house.

After the incident, the family said it could no longer live in the home and that at least one child needed psychological therapy. Moua said in July that her family was a "mess" and that one of her sons was still having nightmares about the raid.

Moua said Friday her children are still afraid of the police. She said she is trying to turn that around, to make them to believe that most police officers are good and are there to help, rather than harm.

"I told them not all police are bad," she said. "I don't want my kids to be afraid of the police."

Other elements of the settlement seek to improve police understanding for Hmong culture, and improve relations between police and the Hmong community. Those include the appointment of a police liaison to the Hmong community, more training for police and more efforts to recruit Hmong police officers.

"The police department recognizes that this was an unfortunate incident," Minneapolis police spokesman Sgt. Jesse Garcia said Friday. "At this point, we're pleased to have this behind us, and we look forward to building a stronger relationship with the Hmong community going forward. We wish the family well as they also move forward."

Asked how things would change as a result of the botched raid, Garcia said: "We're looking at how things are done, internally, in the hopes of preventing something like this from happening again."

A sour note for the family in the aftermath of the raid was a decision by the department to award medals of valor to the eight officers who participated in it. Mayor R.T. Rybak later criticized that decision.

Heffelfinger said the family was now living in an apartment in Minneapolis. He said they are looking for a new place to live.

ndraper@startribune.com • 612-673-4547 sbrandt@startribune.com • 612-673-4438

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