An ex-Minneapolis police officer appeared in court and was briefly jailed Thursday, one day after he was charged with felony assault for kicking a domestic assault suspect in the face, causing serious injuries.
Christopher Michael Reiter, 36, gave his birth date and address in East Bethel when called before a judge at the Hennepin County Public Safety Facility. He declined to comment to a reporter.
Reiter is accused of repeatedly kicking Mohamed Osman, 35, in the face when responding to a May 30, 2016, call, breaking Osman’s nose and causing a traumatic brain injury. The incident was captured on surveillance video, and three other officers at the scene said they did not feel it necessary to kick him in the face, according to charges.
Reiter stood beside his attorney, Robert Fowler, who told Judge Fred Karasov that he would be challenging some of the evidence presented against his client during the next hearing, scheduled for April 20. Reiter was booked into jail and released without posting bail with the agreement of Assistant Hennepin County Attorney Debra Lund.
Outside the courtroom after the hearing, Fowler described Reiter as an “excellent patrol officer.” But he said he did not intend to offer an explanation to the media on why Reiter was innocent of the allegations.
“We believe he was legally justified and the place to [explain why is] in the court,” Fowler said.
Asked about the three other officers who said it was not necessary to kick Osman in the face, Fowler said, “They said they did not use force because they were not in the position my client was in,” Fowler said.
Fowler also took issue with news reports that Reiter had eight complaints filed against him.
“To my knowledge, he has not had sustained allegations of excessive use of force in any of the cases.” Fowler acknowledged that two of the cases remain open.
According to charges, Reiter and other officers were called to a south Minneapolis apartment building in the 2900 block of Chicago Av. after a report that Osman had severely beaten his girlfriend.
Osman was ordered to the ground and was complying when video shows Reiter “quickly approaching [Osman] and violently kicking him in the face within seconds of [Osman] going to the ground,” the complaint says.
He collapsed to the ground unconscious and bleeding. Osman pleaded guilty to third degree assault in January as part of a plea deal and will be sentenced March 23. At least one other officer, Josh Domek, was reprimanded for his role in the May assault.
In September 2014, Reiter was caught on video kicking a man in the chest in similar fashion.
That video shows Reiter arriving at the gas station after the manager, Shawn Ross, broke up a fight. Reiter got out of the car and pointed at Ross, who got on his knees. Reiter then walked up to Ross and kicked him the chest.
The video is the key evidence in a federal lawsuit Ross filed against the officer and the City of Minneapolis. That case is now scheduled for trial in July.
Reiter is the second officer this year to face felony assault charges. In January officer Efrem Hamilton was charged with second-degree assault and intentional discharge of a firearm for firing at a car full of people during a downtown melee when he was working off duty in November. He too, was fired and is challenging the termination.
In her tenure, Minneapolis Police Chief Janeé Harteau has fired eight officers, according to department records, fewer than her predecessor, Tim Dolan, who terminated 13 cops in the roughly seven years that he ran the department. Harteau, who was appointed in 2012, is in her second three-year term as chief.
Bill McManus, the city’s chief between 2002 and 2006, terminated five officers during his tenure, records show.
That count doesn’t include officers who, like Reiter, have filed a grievance to appeal their dismissal. The tally also doesn’t reflect cops who were fired and then got their jobs back through arbitration, records that officials say are protected under state privacy laws.
In St. Paul, an officer who was charged with punching a potentially suicidal 14-year-old girl in the face also appeared in court and pleaded not guilty Thursday.
In December, Michael P. Soucheray II and another St. Paul police officer responded to a report of a girl who was possibly suicidal at a shelter for sex trafficking victims. The girl was refusing to go to the hospital. Officers handcuffed her and she was “screaming and crying” as they tried to get her in a squad car, according to the complaint.
She stood up and spat in Soucheray’s face, and he responded by punching her in the face twice, grabbing her by the jaw and swearing at her, the complaint states. Soucheray, 38, of Woodbury, was charged with misdemeanor fifth-degree assault and has been on administrative leave.
Staff writers Jessie Van Berkel and Libor Jany contributed to this report.