A judge’s order in a Minneapolis police brutality suit last week pushed the city’s bill to $410,653.33 for two lawsuits filed against police officer Michael Griffin.
The suits, one stemming from a 2010 incident and the other from 2011, both involve cases in which Griffin was off-duty and at downtown bars when he allegedly punched or kicked people who did not want to fight him. Three people were hospitalized as a result of the incidents, including one man who was unconscious and bleeding for more than five minutes, according to one of the lawsuits.
Griffin remains a patrol officer in the Fourth Precinct on the city’s North Side, according to a department spokesman. The status of an internal affairs review of the incidents was not immediately available Friday.
Griffin was awarded the department’s medal of valor last year for his response to the 2012 Accent Signage killings, when he was among the first officers to arrive at the scene of the mass workplace shooting.
The Star Tribune reported last summer that of 95 payouts totaling $14 million for police misconduct since 2006, only eight of the cases led to discipline for police officers.
The city’s latest bill arrived Thursday, when U.S. District Court Judge David Doty ordered the city to pay $145,653.33 in attorney’s fees for the lawsuit brought by Jeremy Axel, an IT salesman from St. Louis Park who was knocked unconscious by Griffin on Nov. 4, 2011. In December, a federal jury awarded Axel $125,000 in his excessive-force claim against the officer.
And last month, the Minneapolis City Council approved a $140,000 settlement with Ibrahim Regai, who alleged that he was threatened, followed, then punched and knocked to the ground by Griffin outside a Minneapolis bar May 29, 2010.
The three payments total $410,653.33 and together amount to one of the larger payouts the city has made for the actions of one officer.
First incident at bar closing
The altercation involving Regai began outside a downtown Minneapolis bar after closing time, according to the suit. An argument between a husband and wife caused problems for Griffin, who was friends with the husband, and Regai, who was friends with the wife. Griffin flashed his badge and warned Regai that he could be arrested.
Regai left the area and walked to nearby nightclub Envy where he worked as a part-time employee. He went to an employee’s entrance and rang the doorbell, but when the door didn’t open, he turned around to face Griffin. A surveillance camera took pictures of the scene as Regai approached Griffin with his hands out at his sides. Regai said in his suit that he said he didn’t want to fight, but Griffin swung and knocked Regai to the ground.
Griffin then summoned a nearby Minneapolis police officer and had Regai arrested for assault on a police officer. That charge was later dropped.
The 2011 case
More than a year later, Griffin was at the Loop Bar and Restaurant in downtown Minneapolis when Axel’s group asked Griffin, who was wearing civilian clothes, to move so that Axel could join his friends.
Griffin and Axel’s group got into an argument. At the time, no one in Axel’s group knew that Griffin was a police officer.
When Axel and his two friends left the bar, Griffin followed, making threats. Axel got into a cab, but two of his friends were stopped by Minneapolis police officer William Gregory, who arrived in a squad car.
Axel said in his suit that he saw Griffin hit one of his friends, so he stepped out of the cab to check on his friend. Griffin then punched Axel in the head, knocking him out, then picked up the unconscious Axel and kicked him in the face, according to the suit. Axel, who does not have a criminal record, suffered a concussion, had to have several teeth replaced and lost three to four days of work, his attorney said.
The lawsuit made three claims against Griffin: excessive force, battery and false imprisonment. The jury agreed with Axel that excessive force was used, but ruled in favor of officers Griffin and Gregory on the other claims.