Records from an internal investigation of a former Minneapolis police officer show that he was fired after he threatened a Somali American teenager during a 2015 traffic stop and told the teen that he was "proud" of "what happened in Blackhawk Down."
Police officials, who were mostly silent when ex-officer Roderic Weber was fired nearly five years ago, said in a brief statement released through a spokesman that it stands by its decision to fire Weber, which was ultimately upheld by an arbitrator. But the department declined further comment on the case, including questions about discipline of the other officers present.
The revelations, which were first reported by the Sahan Journal, come at a particularly sensitive time for the Minneapolis Police Department, which has been forced to confront its long history of racism as it works to strengthen public trust following the killing of George Floyd last May.
The revelations drew immediate condemnations of the officers' actions and the department's handling of the case.
"We are saddened to learn the shocking nature of this incident and the failure of the previous investigation to discipline other officers who are involved," Jaylani Hussein, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Minnesota, said in a statement. "CAIR-Minnesota demands a new investigation into this incident as well as new disciplinary charges for all officers involved who were not disciplined in the previous investigation. Those officers who stood by and allowed the conduct of this officer showed clearly that this type of behavior is welcomed, practiced, and protected."
The Star Tribune had previously obtained a copy of the investigative report through a data practices request.
The allegations against Weber stemmed from a March 18, 2015, stop in which he was caught on cellphone video going on a profanity-laced tirade against the teen, Hamza Jeylani, threatening to break the 17-year-old's legs — all within earshot of other officers. What the video didn't capture was what Weber said to the teenagers next, according to the investigative report: "Hey, you know what? … Do you remember what happened in Blackhawk Down? … Killed a bunch of you folk. … I'm proud of that. … We didn't finish the job over there, cause if we'd finished the job you guys wouldn't be over here right now."
Weber's taunts were apparently in reference to "Black Hawk Down," a blockbuster movie based on a book of the same name by journalist Mark Bowden, about an ill-fated 1993 U.S. Special Forces mission in Mogadishu, Somalia. The film has drawn criticism in some quarters for its depiction of Somalis and its uncritical view of America's involvement in the civil war that engulfed the east African nation.
The comments came to light only after Internal Affairs investigators reviewed audio from another officer's lapel microphone; Weber's own mic was turned off, in violation of department policy.
An investigation was launched after the department was contacted by a Fox-9 TV reporter to comment on the incident. Weber was fired from the department in early 2016, nearly a year after the video of the incident surfaced.
Weber had racked up numerous civilian complaints over his department career. He also was recognized for on-the-job bravery for being one of the first officers to arrive at the scene of the 2012 Accent Signage mass shooting, in which six people were killed.
Weber and his then-police partner, Daniel Diedrich, were responding to a call about a stolen vehicle that had been taken from a parking ramp at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport when they spotted the teens.
Weber and Diedrich approached the young men and detained them, and several other officers arrived as backup, including an officer from the Park Police.
In the 30-second cellphone video, which later popped up on Twitter and YouTube, Weber is heard threatening the teens, telling them that he would stop being "Officer Friendly" if they tried to escape. While his face is never visible, Weber previously admitted to union officials that it was his voice in the video.
"Plain and simple, if you [expletive] with me, I'm gonna break your legs before you get a chance to run," Weber is heard saying.
Weber was placed on paid leave when the video began circulating in May 2015 and an internal investigation was launched into his conduct. He was fired the following January.
At the time, department officials only said that his termination was the result of a monthslong investigation that found he had acted inappropriately, without offering any further explanation.
While sitting in the back of Weber's police squad, two of the teens discussed in Somali the location of a gun that was stashed in the car they had been driving — a fact that wasn't revealed until later when their conversation was translated by an interpreter, according to the report. After Weber and Diedrich got into the car, their conversation was picked up by a lapel microphone worn by the Park Police officer, who was standing nearby.
One of the teens with Jeylani responded: "You're racist Bro," to which Weber said, "Yeah, we are yeah," according to a transcript of their conversation cited in the report.
"Yep, and proud of it," Weber is heard saying, according to the transcript.
Two of the teens were patted down by officers, but all four were released at the scene, the report says.
The teens later filed a complaint with the Office of Police Conduct Review alleging that they were racially profiled and harassed by Weber, but they never showed up for scheduled interviews with investigators, according to the report.
At his disciplinary hearing, Weber admitted to making the comments and acknowledged that they were inappropriate, but said his threat to break the teen's legs was an "attempt to gain control in what he viewed as an Officer safety issue" because the young men were suspected of stealing a car.
A police supervisor who showed up at the scene later, testified before the disciplinary panel that she didn't hear the "Black Hawk Down" comment.
Diedrich testified he didn't see a problem with Weber's comments "through the circumstances," but admitted that the "Black Hawk Down" comment "doesn't sound like something appropriate" and likely violated the department's policy against harsh language. When pressed on his "Black Hawk Down" comment, Weber said the teens had gotten "under his skin" by cursing and making comments that to him suggested they didn't want to be in the U.S., but insisted that he wasn't racist. He also apologized to investigators for the comment.
Diedrich later received a 30-hour suspension without pay for several policy violations, including failing to report Weber's comments to his superiors.
The police union later appealed Weber's termination, sending the matter to an arbitrator, who ended up siding with the department. A message left for the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis president wasn't immediately returned on Thursday afternoon.