Parents say Minneapolis cop seized kids

  • Article by: DAVID CHANEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 24, 2009 - 11:04 PM

A Minneapolis officer was charged with false imprisonment for driving off with two boys who he believed were being mischievous.

The 13-year-old son of John and Tara Farrell and a 12-year-old friend were walking in Brooklyn Park one August night when a Cadillac Escalade sped up and the driver ordered them inside.

The man drove to his nearby house, sat the frightened boys on a curb and slapped handcuffs on them. Only then did they learn that they had been placed under citizen's arrest by off-duty Minneapolis police officer Tony Adams, whose doorbell had been rung earlier by someone who fled and who had heard from neighbors that teens might be breaking into vehicles in the area.

The Farrells, who had called 911 about their missing son and had been frantically searching for him, didn't learn the identity of the man they believed had abducted the boys for at least 10 minutes.

The incident traumatized their son, they say, and on Tuesday the couple talked about how criminal charges filed against Adams will, in their view, make sure the incident isn't "brushed under the rug."

Adams, 42, a decorated 20-year member of the department known for community policing, was charged Nov. 13 with felony false imprisonment and gross misdemeanor interfering with a 911 call. He was placed on paid administrative leave last week, and is under internal investigation.

Chris Madel, Adams' attorney, said he was doing what any cop would have done if alerted to trouble in his neighborhood. "The criminal complaint against Tony is wrong on the facts of the law and is morally wrong," he said. "He knows he's innocent, and he's angry."

The case was prosecuted by the Wright County attorney's office because many of Adams' cases are handled by Hennepin County.

"At issue wasn't so much that he was an off-duty officer. The issue was if he had the authority to make a citizen's arrest," said assistant Wright County attorney Lee Martie.

The statute on how to make a citizen's arrest is well-defined, he said. The crime has to be committed in the presence of the person making the arrest, who must identify himself and tell the person the reason for the arrest, Martie said. The arrester then is required to take the person to a law enforcement agency.

"Our office didn't feel Mr. Adams' actions met this definition," Martie said.

According to the court document, several people called 911 about 10:25 p.m. Aug. 13 to report the apparent kidnapping of two children. The first call came from a man sitting outside his house who heard Adams pull up in his vehicle, swear at the boys and order them into the car. The document said Adams told the boys "they were going to learn respect."

Another call came from a man who saw the boys taken away, the document said. He was able to call the 12-year-old, who said a Minneapolis cop had them in handcuffs.

When the man later confronted Adams, the officer replied, "You're damn right when they're coming and disturbing me I can grab kids like that," the document said. When asked why Adams didn't call police, Adams said he was the police.

John Farrell said his son told him Adams yelled and swore at him and his friend. When the boy asked Adams if he was an officer, Adams said he was and threatened to take the teens to a juvenile facility.

As the Farrells searched for their son, who had missed curfew, a neighbor near Adams' house asked the couple if they were trying to find a child. At about the same time, Adams drove around the corner in the Escalade, Farrell said.

"We saw our child in the back seat, so we stood in front of the vehicle and told the driver to stop," he said. "We still didn't know he was an officer."

Tara Farrell called 911 and sought to have Adams explain to the dispatcher why he had children in his back seat. Adams said, "I am the [expletive] police. I don't need to talk to them," the document said. He grabbed Tara Farrell's wrist, causing her to drop the phone, the document said.

Madel said Adams told him Tara Farrell was hysterical so he got back in his vehicle and waited for police to arrive.

Adams told officers that he had asked the teens where they lived because he wanted to bring them home, but that they didn't answer, Madel said. Adams also used one of the teen's cell phones to try to reach a parent, but nobody answered, Madel said.

John Farrell said that the Brooklyn Park officers appeared to know Adams and that they returned Adams' handcuffs and let him leave. The boys were soon released.

"Why would the officers return his handcuffs if they believed he had just committed a felony?" Madel said. "They would be evidence."

Two other teens who had been with Farrell's son and his friend admitted they were playing "ding dong ditch," but the arrested teens didn't participate, the document said. None of the boys has been charged.

"I've never seen my son so scared when we got him back," John Farrell said. "We want this officer held accountable. You can't do certain things just because you are a police officer."

Adams, who is assigned to downtown's First Precinct, has been temporarily assigned to internal affairs. He worked for years on the North Side as a school liaison officer and on a drug task force, and has received two Medals of Valor.

"I invited him to my wedding," said Madel, who has known Adams since 2003. "He would be the officer I would want at my door if I called 911."

David Chanen • 612-673-4465

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