Prosecutor: Alcohol involved in 'remarkably violent' bar assault

  • Article by: PAUL LEVY , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 19, 2012 - 12:15 PM

David Clifford

Photo: Anoka County Sheriff's Office, Associated Press

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A Minneapolis SWAT team leader was formally charged with third-degree felony assault during a court appearance Tuesday morning in Anoka County.

Sgt. David Clifford, 47, of the Minneapolis Police Department, is accused of punching a Ramsey man while off duty at a bar Saturday night.

Brian Vander Lee, 43, remains hospitalized after two surgeries for swelling of the brain.

Clifford posted a $15,000 bond, which was set by Anoka County District Judge Tammi Fredrickson. If convicted, Clifford could face up to five years in jail.

According to Anoka County Prosecutor Blair Buccione, alcohol was involved in the alleged assault. Buccione said that the offense was "remarkably violent" and that Clifford fled the scene immediately after the alleged assault at Tanner's Station in Andover.

According to the criminal complaint, a surveillance video shows that Vander Lee was sitting on the patio at Tanner's Station with his wife and brother on Saturday evening when Clifford, who was sitting at the next table, confronted him. Vander Lee was on his cellphone when Clifford leaned over and began talking in his ear, said Anoka County Sheriff's Commander Paul Sommer. Witnesses described it as a "verbal confrontation," according to the criminal complaint.

Then Clifford struck Vander Lee in the mouth with his right fist, Sommer said the video showed. Vander Lee fell backward, his head hitting the pavement.

Clifford's next court appearance is scheduled for July 19.

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