At least a dozen Minneapolis police officers were sanctioned for misconduct related to the department's riot response in the wake of George Floyd's murder and subsequent crowd control efforts in 2020, according to newly released disciplinary files.

A sergeant was fired for pepper-spraying a Vice reporter as he lay prone on the pavement, waving his press credential. Another was terminated for brutally beating Jaleel Stallings, a 29-year-old Army veteran out past curfew. Eight were suspended for using excessive force on protesters, failing to de-escalate encounters or turn on their body-worn cameras. Supervisors also faced steep penalties for not completing use-of-force reviews on their staff.

Dozens more voluntarily left the embattled department before investigations could be completed.

Few disciplinary reports were made public in the immediate aftermath of Floyd's killing, even as a mountain of police misconduct complaints and lawsuits piled up. Widely shared social media videos showed some officers indiscriminately spraying chemical irritants outside squad cars and at nonviolent groups, while others shot marking rounds at civilians on their own property.

The city has paid nearly $50 million in police brutality claims since that tumultuous period.

Until now, community members were left to wonder whether those involved were ever held accountable. (For 16 months, the only officer formally reprimanded by top brass was Colleen Ryan, who served as an anonymous source for a GQ magazine article criticizing the Police Department's "toxic culture.")

The new, heavily redacted documents underscore the sluggish — and often inconsistent — nature of the police oversight process in Minneapolis, where the chief is ultimately responsible for doling out discipline. Chronic complaint backlogs inside Internal Affairs and the city's Office of Police Conduct Review mean that misconduct investigations can take years. By then, an officer may have been promoted or even have resigned.

Most of the recently posted disciplinary memos were signed by former police chiefs Medaria Arradondo and Amelia Huffman and pertain to blatant policy violations in the chaotic days after Floyd's death. One is more than three years old.

In Minnesota, such records aren't public until they've gone through the full grievance process.

In a phone interview Thursday, Stallings and his attorney, Eric Rice, characterized the newly published disciplinary memos as more of a reaction to public outcry than a proactive effort to correct rogue behavior.

"I'm left with a bad taste about it," Stallings said, adding that the repercussions might've felt more appropriate had they come sooner.

Stallings, who was criminally charged but later acquitted by a jury, said: "They should be held to the same standard of law as I am — if not higher because of their position. That doesn't seem to be the case."

Police officials declined to comment. In a statement, Sgt. Sherral Schmidt, president of the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis, acknowledged the difficulty of 2020 but urged the public not to overlook "the environment and conditions officers were working under."

"The discipline cases stemming from that period are even more complex due to the raw emotion attached to the incidents," she wrote, pointing to how "officers worked for days on end with little sleep or rest in an extremely dangerous, volatile and often unpredictable environment."

Assault on Stallings

On May 30, 2020, as fires smoldered on Lake Street and the National Guard rolled in to help restore order after back-to-back nights of looting, police officers in an unmarked cargo van went "hunting" for curfew breakers after dark.

When they came upon a group of people gathered in a parking lot, several SWAT members began firing 40-millimeter marking rounds at them. One struck Stallings in the chest.

He returned fire with his legally owned pistol, in what Stallings later described as an attempt to defend himself from unknown assailants. A swarm of officers descended on Stallings, who surrendered once police identified themselves.

But as Stallings lay facedown, offering no resistance, officer Justin Stetson continued punching and kicking him. The beating left Stallings bloodied, with a broken eye socket

That level of force was "not objectively reasonable," then-Interim Chief Huffman wrote in her 2022 disciplinary memo, noting that Stallings' injuries could've been "even more grave."

She recommended that Stetson be fired and officer Tyler Klund, who kicked Stallings once and failed to switch on his body camera, be suspended for 120 hours. Stetson was later charged and convicted of assault.

The newly released records detail the actions of several other officers involved in that encounter: Officers Klund and Michael Osbeck Jr. each struck Stallings' friend Virgil Lee Jackson Jr., even after colleagues appeared to have him secured on the ground.

Jackson twice yelled, "I'm not resisting," according to the disciplinary findings. Without warning, officer Michael Pfaff deployed his Taser nine times in 54 seconds. In his report, Pfaff admitted to using the device in "drive stun" mode, pressing the electrodes directly onto Jackson's body, to "gain compliance."

However, it did not appear that Jackson was resisting arrest. "If he was moving around, it was related to the strikes that were being delivered by another officer," Huffman wrote at the time.

She issued an 80-hour suspension for Pfaff's use of force violation and failure to activate his body camera.

Disciplinary files note that managing the cameras' battery life was often difficult during the civil unrest, as officers had limited access to charging stations during long shifts.

Sgt. Kevin Angerhofer, who oversaw all SWAT teams that day, didn't complete a required supervisory review until contacted by Internal Affairs, records show. Even then, significant portions were left incomplete, and he later described the task as "checking a box." Huffman suspended him for 60 hours.

Emails obtained by the Star Tribune indicate that the internal investigation didn't begin until after the Minnesota Reformer published an article on Sept. 1, 2021, about Stallings' acquittal that included surveillance footage undermining the officers' original claims.

Crowd control incidents

In a case later cited by the U.S. Department of Justice as one of the most flagrant examples of the Minneapolis Police Department retaliating against observers, officers approached a man filming law enforcement actions on Interstate 35W, where a massive crowd had formed to protest Floyd's death.

Officers had ordered the crowd to disperse and screamed at him to leave, too. When the man refused, officer Mike Nimlos repeatedly pepper-sprayed him in the face, then pushed him over with a baton.

From nearby, officer Oscar Macias shot the man in the thigh with a 40mm marking round. Macias then grabbed his cellphone and threw it off the bridge.

His conduct lacked discretion and constituted unreasonable force that undermined public trust, Chief Brian O'Hara wrote in his May 17 disciplinary decision.

But O'Hara acknowledged that for almost a week leading up to the incident, officers, including Macias, had "worked extraordinarily long hours with little rest and little if any time to take care of personal needs."

Macias and Nimlos each received a 40-hour suspension without pay.

Later that fall — one day after the election of President Joe Biden — 500 protesters marched onto I-94, shutting down traffic for several hours. As hostilities grew between demonstrators and a phalanx of riot-gear-clad law enforcement after dark, someone in the crowd threw a bottle.

Officer Conan Hickey responded by spraying chemical irritant a group of people standing in the area where the bottle came from, including a woman recording the scene on her cell phone. Most had their backs partly or fully turned on Hickey at the time, disciplinary records show. The officer didn't document that use of force or notify his supervisor.

Sgt. Stephen McBride and Sgt. George Peltz, who were responsible for performing supervisory reviews that day, failed to complete the task, the documents show. Huffman gave both 10-hour suspensions.

Hickey received a suspension of an undisclosed length, but after the union filed a grievance, O'Hara agreed to knock the penalty back to 10 hours.