A St. Paul man is suing the city and several of its police officers alleging that they struck him in the head with a shotgun and “kicked or stomped” him so badly he suffered a traumatic brain injury and “massive facial trauma.”
Michael Fleming, 31, filed a suit in federal court against the city of St. Paul, police Sgt. Mike Dunaski and five unnamed officers who executed a search warrant at an apartment in the 900 block of Edgerton Street on Oct. 13, 2011.
“He got his skull beat in for no valid reason, and someone should have to be held accountable for that,” said one of Fleming’s attorneys, Scott Swanson. Swanson said they filed the case six years later “so he could be heard” before the statute of limitations expires.
Fleming’s suit alleges that the officers violated his Fourth and 14th Amendment rights covering unreasonable search, seizure and excessive force. It also alleges that officers at the scene did not intervene.
Swanson said he will identify the other officers as litigation proceeds and more police documents are made available. Fleming declined to comment.
St. Paul police spokesman Steve Linders said he could not comment on pending litigation. Dave Titus, head of the St. Paul Police Federation, said, “This was a very dangerous situation. Dunaski and other officers involved are highly decorated and capable. Mr. Fleming’s complaint has many inaccuracies and omissions.”
Fleming was never charged with a crime related to the search, and continues to suffer emotionally and mentally from the experience, Swanson said. The titanium used to rebuild his eye socket has made certain outdoor manual labor jobs difficult, Swanson said, because it gets cold in the wintertime and hot in the summertime.
According to the suit and Swanson: Fleming was at the apartment with 10-plus others who had gathered in the days following a funeral for Fleming’s godbrother. Fleming did not live there and was not the subject of the search warrant.
About 7:46 p.m. that night, Dunaski and several other officers assisting the East District’s FORCE unit entered the apartment.
“Fleming did not reach for a gun, and despite offering no resistance to the officers, either verbally or physically, he was struck in the head with a shotgun by Defendant Dunaski,” the suit said.
“When he fell to the ground after being hit on his head, and still offering no resistance, Fleming was further assaulted by the officers, including Defendant Dunaski. In particular, his head was kicked or stomped by the officers, all of whom on information and belief wear steel-toed shoes, causing his head to be further hit as it pounded into the metal cabinets that were attached to the counter.”
Fleming was also struck with a flashlight and tasered, according to the allegations.
Fleming’s face was covered in blood, and he spit up blood.
“When that happened, an officer kneed him in his chest, exclaiming ‘are you seriously gonna [expletive] spit on my shoe!’ ” the suit alleged.
Fleming was arrested and taken to Regions Hospital about 8:45 p.m. He was hospitalized for three days for swelling on the left side of his face and eye, bleeding from the nose and oropharynx, “massive facial trauma,” orbital wall fractures, a traumatic brain injury and other injuries.
Fleming underwent surgery on Dec. 22 to repair his eye-related injuries, and received a titanium plate.