The Minneapolis Park Board has paid $170,000 to settle claims filed on behalf of four Somali boys who were handcuffed by park police and detained at gunpoint but never arrested.
The incident at Minnehaha Park in July 2018, captured on video by a bystander and posted to social media, resulted in an internal review of the incident and led the board to conduct two listening sessions with residents.
The Park Board said Wednesday the court settlement was finalized in November and the money paid out a short time later.
The Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MN) in Minneapolis held a news conference Wednesday about the settlement. CAIR executive director Jaylani Hussein and Ellen Longfellow, a civil rights attorney, said the money — $40,000 each — will go into accounts overseen by the boys’ families. CAIR will receive $10,000 in the settlement.
The boys were ages 13 to 16 at the time of the incident, Longfellow said.
Officer Matthew Ryan, one of the two officers who detained the teens, received a two-day suspension by the Park Board. An arbitrator, Stephen Befort, last July upheld the suspension of Ryan, a park police officer since 2013.
In the order, obtained by a data practices request, Befort wrote that park police officials alleged that Ryan “screamed and yelled at the detainees” in the incident, “escalating rather than de-escalating the situation.” The arbitrator said the officials stated that Ryan also failed to explain or apologize to the youths after discovering that the reason for detaining them was unfounded. Footage of the incident from the officers’ body cameras was also released Wednesday.
The Park Board, in a statement issued Wednesday, said that Ryan also has received “additional training.”
According to records in the case, park police officers were responding to a 911 call at 7:30 p.m. The caller alleged that four teenagers, of apparent Somali ethnicity, were wielding sticks, knives and possibly a gun and were assaulting the caller’s boyfriend. Ryan and his partner, Eric Olson, arrived and saw one of the boys throw an object into the woods.
Ryan drew his gun and ordered the boys to get on the ground, while Olson handcuffed and searched them.
Longfellow said an older white woman, who was a bystander, told the officers that the youths were not at fault and had been threatened. The youths were put in a squad car, but rather than being driven home were let out on the street. Their parents were never contacted and the boys weren’t charged.
Park police officials concluded that drawing a gun was proper, though Ryan’s decision to scream at the youths was not.
In its statement to the media Wednesday, the Park Board said that in the settlement the board “is not admitting to any discrimination or use of excessive force.”
“We are committed to providing safe and welcoming parks for everyone. We took the 2018 incident at Minnehaha Falls seriously and conducted an independent employment investigation of our officers’ conduct,” Minneapolis parks Superintendent Al Bangoura said in a statement.
Mothers of three of the boys came to the CAIR news conference.
One of them, Halimo Isse, said she was “in shock” when she first learned of the incident. As for the settlement, she said, ”Money is not going to ease the pain or solve the problem, but I feel comfort in the way the bystanders and community reacted.”