On May 30, 202, just days after the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, a Black US Army veteran named Jaleel Stallings was also brutally beaten by Chauvin's colleagues. The officers had — in their own words, as seen in the video above — gone out that night "hunting activists." They cruised through the city in the van with no lights, occasionally opening the door to randomly shoot 40mm "less lethal" bullets at people under the auspices of "crowd control."
When Mr. Stallings saw gunfire coming from an unmarked, unlit van at night, he assumed they were white supremacists. He pulled out his own pistol and shot three times at the van. He didn't realize they were police until they emerged from the van to attack him. Before the police reached him, he was already down on the ground with his hands behind his head. They proceeded to brutally injure him anyway, charging him with eight counts including attempted second degree murder and first degree assault. Or, as the Minnesota Reformer, which released the videos, puts it:
Bodycam videos show Stallings repeatedly tried to surrender, saying "Listen, listen, sir, I'm trying to" as Stetson and Bittell beat him for about 30 seconds. Stetson wrote in his report that he struck Stallings to gain control of him — even though he was flat on the ground — and claimed Stallings wasn't complying.
In his written report, Bittell didn't say that his team fired any 40mm rounds at Stallings before Stallings fired at the van, writing only that he "heard shots fired from the rear of the pickup and saw muzzle flashes from that area."
The newly released bodycam video excerpts show the officers riding in the van down Lake Street — which was covered in anti-police graffiti and eerily empty. In his written report, Stetson described Lake Street as "a complete mess [that] looked like the scene out of a movie" and said "[e]very other store was looted or had fire damage from the night before."
Before coming upon Stallings, the video shows the SWAT team fired 40mm rounds at civilians without warning, then yelled at them to "go home." That alarmed one of those civilians at 15th Avenue and prompted him to run past the parking lot near Stallings' group yelling "They're shooting!"
Earlier that night, Bittell had ordered the unit to "Drive down Lake Street. You see a group, call it out. OK great! F*** 'em up, gas 'em, f*** 'em up."
Rice also released an audio recording of police questioning of Stallings in the hospital afterward. He was treated for the fractured eye socket and numerous scrapes and bruises. When asked if he would give a statement, Stallings asked if everybody was OK. The officer replied, "Depends what you consider to be OK; nobody's mortally injured."
Right-wing pundits branded Mr. Stallings as a potential "cop-killer." As Rolling Stone explains:
Despite the mitigating video evidence in the case, the charging attorney still wanted to throw the book at Stallings, asking him to plead guilty to counts carrying 13 years in prison, according to Rice.
Rather than accept this plea deal, Stallings pursued his right to a jury trial. This was a significant risk — as one assault charge alone carried a 10 year mandatory minimum sentence. In the end, the jury favored Stallings' claim of self defense. The deliberations lasted just "three hours, including a lunch break," Rice says. Stallings was found not-guilty on September 1st.
The video footage above — and more — was obtained by Mr. Stallings' lawyer. But it wasn't easy. The Minneapolis Police Department has been accused of hiding evidence of police misconduct. Three of the officers involved in the attack have taken early retirement settlements — one of them receiving $118,000 per year while the other two received reduced "duty disability retirement" salaries of $62,000 and $84,000 per year, plus health insurance. According to Fox 9, one of the officers involved was also responsible for the use-of-force training for MPD, and would go on to testify about the use of neck restraints during the trial of Derek Chauvin.
More videos released in Jaleel Stallings case [Deena Winter / Minnesota Reformer]
Jaleel Stallings shot at the MPD; a jury acquitted him of wrongdoing [Deena Winter / Minnesota Reformer]
Body camera video shows beating of man who said he mistakenly shot at Minneapolis police during George Floyd unrest [Mark Vancleave / Star Tribune]
Minneapolis Police Caught on Video 'Hunting' Activists [Tim Dickinson / Rolling Stone]