Community activists said Monday that a Minneapolis police officer used excessive force when arresting an outreach worker and then threatened to shoot witnesses to the incident.
Neighborhoods Organizing for Change (NOC) officials said that Navell Gordon, 22, of Minneapolis, was collecting signatures for a petition to restore felons' voting rights outside Cub Foods at 701 W. Broadway on Thursday when an employee asked him to leave.
Officials claim that Gordon was approached by an officer, identified in a police report as Tyrone Barze Jr., who, after a brief exchange, tackled and handcuffed him.
When several witnesses protested, Barze reportedly threatened to shoot them if they persisted, said Wintana Melekin, NOC's community engagement director.
Melekin said she rushed to the scene after learning of Gordon's arrest and was arrested after confronting Barze.
A three-minute YouTube video, at tinyurl.com/o3za4wv, purportedly of the exchange showed an officer repeatedly asking Melekin to leave the store or face arrest. After escorting her outside, it appeared that Melekin tried to go back into the store, at which point the officer arrested her.
The incident happened about 7:30 p.m. Thursday.
Both Melekin and Gordon were charged with trespassing and released at the scene.
Police spokesman Lt. John Elder said he couldn't comment, because the investigation is ongoing.
"Generally speaking, people have the right to do political canvassing, to talk to people, to hand out literature on what are known as public forums, which are public streets and public sidewalks," said Teresa Nelson, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota.
Melekin said Gordon was standing on Cub property at the time of his arrest, but said she believed that the officer's use of force far exceeded what was needed.
Barze, a five-year veteran of the force, has been named in at least two recent lawsuits, including one in which he was accused of using a "neck restraint" to control a combative high school student, causing the teenager to lose consciousness. Barze could not be reached for comment.