A graphic tattoo and Facebook post aimed at a Minneapolis police officer have landed a St. Louis Park man in jail.
The Hennepin County attorney charges that the tattoo Antonio Frasion Jenkins Jr., 20, put on his arm and on Facebook was a terroristic threat against the officer.
Not so fast, said Chuck Samuelson, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota.
"This is the United States of America and we have a Bill of Rights, and that's a messy thing oftentimes," he said.
While the images are disgusting and disturbing, Samuelson said, they're not criminal.
The tattoo on Jenkins' left bicep depicts a person holding a semi-automatic handgun with the barrel of the gun partially in the mouth of a pig, according to a criminal complaint. The tattoo includes the officer's name (although it's misspelled), his badge number and an expletive directed at police. The Facebook post on Jenkins' page also includes a message about the tattoo: "My tattoo iz a pig get'n his brains blew out." According to the criminal complaint, 18 people gave the post a "thumbs-up" (or "like") response.
The officer, a 22-year veteran and a member of the gang investigation team, works in the Third Precinct, an area of the city that includes territory "traditionally claimed by the Bloods," the complaint said. The officer, who saw the Facebook post Oct. 30, considered it a direct threat against his life. His family is in "fear as a result," the complaint said.
Jenkins is charged with "terroristic threats (for the benefit of a gang)" which carries a penalty of up to 5 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
Police stopped Jenkins on Monday and saw the tattoo that had been posted on Facebook. According to the complaint, Jenkins told police he was angry with the officer for an incident that occurred in August. The details of that incident aren't explained. The complaint notes another incident that occurred Sept. 30 "where graffiti was located within an apartment commonly used by members of the Bloods street gang." The graffiti uses a vile expletive preceding the officer's name.
Police also intercepted a prison phone call in which Jenkins bragged to another gang member about his tattoo.
Police and the county attorney's office say the terroristic charges stemming from Jenkins' tattoo and Facebook page are unusual.
"The tattoo is certainly a new one," said Minneapolis police spokesman Sgt. Bill Palmer. "It's a new one on me. ... This threat certainly isn't subtle."
Hennepin County District Attorney Mike Freeman said: "It's real and it's serious."
"I understand what the ACLU is saying," Freeman continued. "We can't charge every person who has a [threatening] tattoo. It has to be a real and present threat."
If the officer were threatened by someone who lived in "Malta or Buenos Aires," Freeman said, he wouldn't be filing charges.
"The guy is here. He's part of the Bloods," Freeman said. "He's done violent things in the past. ... He not only had the tattoo done, which is pretty graphic and pretty ugly, but then he went and broadcast it and put it up on Facebook and got all sorts of responses. ... saying you're going to blow the brains out of somebody and you don't think that's a real threat?"
The ACLU's Samuelson says no.
He conceded that police have a known bad guy who is indicating strong disapproval of this police officer. "But to make the stretch to terroristic threats is a big leap," Samuelson said. "For terroristic threats you have to brandish a gun or a gun lookalike. ... Basically we have someone making fun of the police."
"Bad manners, you bet," he said. "Criminal? No."
"The fact that they arrested him and threw him in jail and then charged him," Samuelson said, "could be interpreted as harassment by the police and the county attorney."