A Minneapolis police officer who was placed on paid leave last fall is under federal investigation in connection with various criminal allegations including the use of excessive force, according to multiple sources.
On and off since late last year, a federal grand jury has been hearing evidence against Ty Jindra, who most recently worked as a patrol officer in the North Side Fourth Precinct.
Police spokesman John Elder confirmed that Jindra remains under internal investigation, but he declined to answer detailed questions from the Star Tribune about the allegations against the five-year department veteran, referring further questions to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
When reached for comment, a spokeswoman for that office said that in keeping with policy she couldn’t “comment or even confirm the existence of an investigation.” The FBI also declined to comment, through a spokesman.
Department officials have been closemouthed about the evidence that prompted them to start investigating Jindra and later turn to federal authorities.
Attorney Peter Wold, who acted as a spokesperson on Jindra’s behalf, said he wouldn’t comment because no formal allegations had been brought forth.
“There’s no charges, he’s an innocent man,” Wold said, without elaborating further.
Jindra first came to the attention of department officials last October, after being targeted by three complaints in a short span of time, the sources said. While grand jury proceedings are secret, multiple sources familiar with the probe said that investigators have been making inquiries about the incidents that drew the complaints. In the first, Jindra allegedly got into a heated confrontation with a paramedic on a call; another accusation involved an aggressive arrest during a traffic stop; and in the third, he was accused of pressing the muzzle of his gun in the face of a suspect who was being handcuffed by other officers and was not resisting, the sources said.
The allegations were turned over to the police department’s Internal Affairs investigators, who began a more thorough review of all of Jindra’s body camera recordings, during which they discovered an alleged theft of drugs, sources said.
A source familiar with the incident said that the department was reviewing footage from one of the officer’s calls when they saw Jindra pulling a small quantity of suspected drugs from a backpack. Jindra’s hand is seeing moving toward his torso before disappearing from the camera’s view, according to the source.
After this more detailed review, the information was referred to federal authorities for possible prosecution, according to the sources.
Officer-shot footage is routinely reviewed for compliance with department’s guidelines on the use of body cameras and for any possible misconduct. It is not clear what department officials found that eventually led them to reach out to federal authorities.
No timetable has been offered for a charging decision.
Law professor Mark Osler at the University of Thomas, a former assistant U.S. attorney in Detroit, said that while he wasn’t familiar with the Jindra investigation, such investigations are often handled by federal prosecutors.
“In general I know that the federal government is independent of local authorities, which gives them more objective ability to investigate and prosecute,” Osler said. “Local authorities often have interlocking relationships with police, which creates complications in the case that the federal government doesn’t face.”
Before transferring to the Fourth Precinct, Jindra worked in the Fifth, where he was among the first officers to arrive to the scene of the police shooting of Justine Ruszczyk Damond in July 2017. Jindra’s testimony in the ensuing murder trial of former Minneapolis officer Mohamed Noor took a controversial turn when prosecutors openly questioned why Jindra and several colleagues refused to meet with Hennepin County attorneys to talk about the shooting, necessitating a grand jury that forced their participation via subpoenas.
Earlier this month, Hennepin County prosecutors announced they were dropping charges against three people from a domestic incident earlier this summer where Jindra was called to the scene. Body camera footage of the chaotic call was released earlier this month, showing Jindra pulling a gun on two handcuffed people. “You wanna get shot?” he’s heard saying.
Through a spokesman, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said that his office wasn’t aware of the allegations against Jindra, and the police union didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment.
Federal prosecutions rare
Federal prosecutions of Minnesota police officers misconduct are highly unusual. Convictions are rarer still.
The Justice Department in 2010 prosecuted Minneapolis officer Jason Andersen for kicking a black youth in Crystal, while a member of the now-defunct Metro Gang Strike Force. In 2015, officer Michael Griffin was indicted on charges of perjury, falsification of records and civil rights violations stemming from two off-duty incidents. Both men were later cleared of wrongdoing in jury trials.
One former officer was charged in an FBI-led corruption investigation of the department. Michael Roberts was convicted in 2009 and sentenced to a year in federal prison for public corruption and tax evasion.
Before joining the force, Jindra held a string of jobs and later enlisted in the Minnesota Army National Guard, spending time deployed overseas. He was hired by Minneapolis police in 2013, coming up through the community service officer program, and went on to earn numerous commendations for his police work, including once being named Fifth Precinct Officer of the Month after helping disarm a knife-wielding attacker, according to personnel records.
He has also been the subject of 15 complaints, one of which resulted in him receiving a letter of reprimand, according to the records, parts of which were redacted: eight of the complaints remain open, while the rest were closed without discipline.
Retired Minneapolis police lieutenant Michael Sauro said that Jindra earned the respect of colleagues as a hardworking, aggressive officer who always showed a willingness to take on tough assignments.
“He just got caught in the political winds — he’s doing police work like it’s the 1990s instead of the 2020s,” Sauro said.
Jindra comes from a police family. His brother is a Brooklyn Park police officer, and his father, Jeff Jindra, retired from the Minneapolis Police Department in 2015 after a long career in which he received numerous awards.
The elder Jindra also had his own history of misconduct allegations. In one case, he and a fellow officer were later cleared of criminal wrongdoing by federal authorities.