A man with autism whose injury at the hands of a Metro Transit police officer when he was 17 triggered protests is now charged with punching a Minneapolis cop.
Marcus Abrams, 19, had just settled a lawsuit for $40,000 for excessive force as a result of the 2015 incident on a light rail platform. This week, he will appear in court on assault charges after an altercation with a Minneapolis officer during bar close over Memorial Day weekend.
When asked by an investigator why he did it, Abrams said "because I don't like [expletive] cops," according to a police report. When questioned why, he asked the investigator if he had ever heard about the assault on the 17-year-old autistic teen in St. Paul. He admitted he doesn't like to go out because his anger gets the best of him, the report said.
Abrams was charged with felony fourth-degree assault of a peace officer. The Minneapolis police officer, who works uniformed off-duty security in downtown, suffered an abrasion to his chin from the punch and pain in his ribs. Abrams was tased during his arrest because he kept trying to fight with officers, the complaint said.
Black Lives Matter protested on Abrams' behalf after he was injured by two Metro Transit officers at the Lexington Avenue LRT stop on Aug. 31, 2015, after he finished work at the State Fair. He suffered a seizure on the light-rail station platform, which required hospital care.
About 100 members of Black Lives Matter lay on the Green Line tracks between the Dale Street and Hamline Avenue stations before the Minnesota Vikings home opener in 2015. The protest drew calls for the officer's firing.
That officer, Richard M. Wegner, failed his probation and was dismissed by Metro Transit. Wegner, a former State Patrol trooper, had been a part-time transit officer since 1993 and was hired full-time in March. State civil service rules allow officers to be "summarily dismissed" during their first year.
During the Green Line protest, Abrams said he was headed home about 7 p.m. on Aug. 31 from his job. He was on the tracks wearing headphones when a transit officer asked him a question.
"I said, 'I'm 17 and I don't have no ID.' " He said he remembered being thrown to the ground.
"I said, 'Get off me!' " he said. "I woke up again in the hospital."
Wegner explained in his police statement that he put Abrams on the ground with a leg sweep, but the teen continued to kick and punch at the officers.
"Just by talking to him they should have known that something in his mind was not right," Abrams' mother, Maria Caldwell, told the Star Tribune in 2015.
In September, 2016 Abrams sued Wegner, another Metro Transit officer and the Metropolitan Council, which oversees operation of the Green Line. Wegner approached Abrams, asked if he was drunk and requested identification. When Abrams said he didn't have identification, Wegner "body slammed" him to the station's concrete surface, causing him to lose consciousness and prompting a seizure.
While his body was "shaking uncontrollably," the lawsuit says, the officers allegedly "delivered knee strikes, punches and used restraint techniques to handcuff Abrams." He suffered injuries to his mouth, head, face, neck, teeth, brain, torso and wrists, and was taken to Regions Hospital in St. Paul for treatment, according to the suit. He tested negative for illegal drugs and alcohol.
The suit was settled about three weeks ago, said Paul Applebaum, the family's attorney.
Abrams will appear in court Thursday on his assault charge. According to the complaint, he became belligerent when officers told people to move along and not block the sidewalk outside a downtown nightclub. He swore at several officers and ignored requests to leave.
An officer attempted to push him back and Abrams punched him in the face, the complaint said. The injured officer was wearing a body camera.
Abrams was interviewed in jail by police several days after the incident. He told the investigator he had autism, bipolar disorder, ADHD and is legally blind, according to a police report. He was downtown to celebrate his sister's birthday. While waiting for his sister outside a nightclub, an officer told him to move.
Abrams said that he was exchanging words with the officer, and they both got their hands in each other's faces.
"The next thing I know, I punched him and some other stuff happened," he said.
At the end of the body camera footage, the sister is screaming, "We just sued y'all when you did this before," the report said.