UPDATE: Police spokesman John Elder said in an email that he could not comment on pending litigation, but that "every allegation that is received by this department receives the most thorough investigation possible to determine the facts in each and every case."
Police union chief John Delmonico defended Barze, saying that use of force is justified in cases like this, where “it appears that she obstructed him doing his job.”
He continued: "If she obstructed the police officer we can use force and in the event of use-of-force...as long as he got her medical attention...then he did what he was supposed to do."
“It’s too bad with these civil suits that these allegations come out and they’re public and everybody wants to jump to conclusions that the cop did something bad, Delmonico said. “I believe that in the end, officer Barze will be absolved of any wrongdoing.”
ORIGINAL POST: A 23-year-old woman sued a Minneapolis police officer and the city on Wednesday, claiming that her civil rights were violated when the officer punched her during an arrest last June for failing to pay a taxi fare and left her “lying unconscious and bleeding in the street.”
The woman, Madelyn R. Milton, of Maple Grove, filed the lawsuit in federal district court Wednesday through her attorney, Robert Bennett, of Minneapolis. The suit maintains that the officer, Tyrone Barze Jr., used excessive force when he punched Milton in the face and knocked her unconscious as she tried to record him arresting several of her friends.
Bennett said Wednesday that the case revolves around “the repetitive conduct of an officer who is really the kind of officer that Mayor Hodges talked about in her open letter to the communities of Minneapolis last October, who violates the public trust and who acts this way with impunity,” referring to comments Hodges made last fall vowing to root out cops who abuse their power.
The city attorney’s office, which represents officers in civil cases, and a police spokesman didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
The lawsuit asserts that on June 1, 2014, Milton, a second-year doctoral student in physical therapy at the University of Jamestown in North Dakota, and a group of friends were returning by taxi from a night out when they started arguing with the cabdriver over a fare.
Barze arrived on the scene after the driver called police and ordered the group to pay the fare, according to the suit. When two of Milton's friends pulled out their cell phones to record the encounter, the suit alleges, he knocked their phones away and placed them under arrest.
Milton claims that Barze confiscated her phone after she too started recording him and when she “took a step or two after Barze” to get it back, he turned and punched her in the face, “knocking her to the ground, where she struck the back of her head and she lay unconscious and bleeding in the street.”
She suffered a traumatic brain injury when she hit her head on the street, according to the suit, which is seeking an unspecified amount in damages.
"As he has done several times in the past in efforts to cover up his unconstitutional misconduct, Barze falsely reported that Milton struck him multiple times in the back, among other false statements and exaggerations in his supplement," the suit read. Obstruction charges against Milton were later dismissed, her attorney said.
“These are medical students for crying out loud, this isn’t the Crips and the Bloods," Bennett said. "And he shouldn’t do it to the Crips or the Bloods either.”
Barze, a seven-year veteran of the force, has been named in at least four pending or past suits, including one in which he’s accused of "unreasonably" pepper spraying the general manager of a popular Uptown bar, a case the city settled out of court for $34,000.
He has also been accused of using a “neck restraint” to control a combative high school student, causing the teenager to lose consciousness, and applying excessive force when arresting an outreach worker outside a North Side Cub Foods and then threatening to shoot witnesses to the incident.