Jaleel Stallings, a man found not guilty on all charges of shooting at Minneapolis police during the unrest that followed George Floyd's murder last year, filed a federal lawsuit Thursday against the city and several of its officers, alleging the use of excessive force and several constitutional rights violations.
Stallings' attorney, Eric Rice, released extensive body camera footage earlier this month that showed Stallings, who had a permit to carry a firearm in public, returning fire at police in self-defense after they fired a marking round at him without warning from an unmarked van on May 30, 2020. Stallings immediately surrendered upon learning they were police officers but was assaulted while on the ground, the video showed. In the footage released by Rice, Lt. Johnny Mercil can be heard saying he believed a group of protesters were white "because there's not looting and fires," while Cmdr. Bruce Folkens referenced "hunting people" during the unrest. Both have since left the department.
Filed in the U.S. District Court of Minnesota, the lawsuit alleges that 19 Minneapolis officers violated Stallings' Fourth Amendment rights by using excessive force and his First Amendment rights by using force to intimidate and deter him from protesting police brutality and racism. The suit alleges that officers also violated his 14th Amendment right to due process by conducting a "recklessly-flawed" investigation after the incident, and, lastly, his 14th Amendment right to equal protection by targeting Black civilians with force and false accusations of felonious conduct.
"These violations are part of a pattern of constitutional violations by the MPD," the complaint said. "Customs causing constitutional violations were long-known by the MPD and the community at-large before this incident. In fact, it was this historical pattern of constitutional violations and lack of accountability or deterrence that led the community to protest with such intensity after the murder of George Floyd."
The complaint names 14 officers as defendants. An additional five are also listed but referred to as John Does because they have yet to be identified, according to the complaint.
"During Jaleel's criminal matter, we did not receive any information that those officers were being investigated or held accountable," Rice said. "We hope that this civil lawsuit is one way in which there can be oversight and accountability for anything that the officers did improperly."
Following the May 30 incident, Stallings was charged with second-degree attempted murder, first-degree assault, second-degree assault and second-degree riot, among other counts. He rejected a plea deal that included a nearly 13-year prison term and instead took the case to trial in June. He was fully acquitted, which was first reported by the Minnesota Reformer.
Now, according to the lawsuit, Stallings seeks redress, including compensation and punitive damages to prevent future violations.
The Police Department declined to comment, citing the active litigation.
"The City Attorney's Office is still reviewing the lawsuit and has no comment at this time," city spokeswoman Sarah McKenzie said.
The beating left Stallings with several injuries, the lawsuit said: a fractured eye socket, bruising, trauma, paranoia and anxiety. He had also been shot in the chest with a marking round, which resulted in labored breathing, the suit said.
When he was transported to the hospital, "Stallings was not permitted to privately discuss the incident or his injuries with medical personnel," the complaint said. "Officers stood nearby and listened to everything."
The lawsuit alleges that the involved officers provided false, misleading statements to justify their use of force and concealed evidence to implicate Stallings.
Those false statements and the narrative that Stallings "attempted to kill officers has continued even after his acquittal," the lawsuit said.