Minneapolis police union lawyers say an officer involved in a high-profile, wrongful-death trial has been unjustly fired.
They want Officer Jason Andersen to get his job back and his lawyers say Andersen was singled out by the police administration, even though he'd been cleared in court and on another charge. Chief Tim Dolan didn't address Andersen's case directly, but issued a news release today defending the department's disciplinary process.
In 2006, Officer Jason Andersen shot and killed 19-year-old Fong Lee. Lee's family sued Andersen for wrongful death, but earlier this year, a jury found him not guilty. That didn't end Andersen's legal troubles.
This summer, Andersen was charged with domestic assault. The charges prompted an internal affairs investigation, and although the domestic assault charges were dropped due to lack of evidence, Andersen was fired.
Police Federation attorney Ann Walther said she read the results of the investigation.
"There isn't any evidence to support a termination, much less discipline against Officer Andersen," Walther said. "I've reviewed the entire file."
Walther will represent Andersen in an arbitration process that may take several months to complete. Walther said if the outcome goes in Andersen's favor, he could get his job back with back pay and benefits.
“There isn't any evidence to support a termination.”Attorney Ann Walther
That would not come as comfort to Hmong community activists like Dai Thao. Thao believes Fong Lee was unarmed when he was shot by Officer Andersen three years ago. Thao said he and others are relieved that, for now, Andersen is no longer on the Minneapolis police force.
"His firing also supports our feeling that he wrongfully killed Fong Lee," Thao said. "He's also an officer who got the Medal of Valor, and I think the community, we are really outraged at that."
Police Chief Tim Dolan awarded Andersen with the Medal of Valor shortly after the Lee shooting in 2006.
In the run-up to the wrongful death trial, Dolan publicly defended Andersen, calling the charges against him ridiculous. Federation lawyers say they don't know why the Dolan's attitude toward Andersen changed so drastically over the summer.
They add that there are other officers on the force who've been convicted of domestic assault and still have their jobs.