Minneapolis council settles police officer's lawsuit

Officer Duy Ngo
Minneapolis police officer Duy Ngo, far left, has settled a lawsuit he filed against the city after he was shot by a fellow officer while working undercover in 2003. He is shown with former Police Chief William McManus, center, and Mayor R.T. Rybak.
MPR file photo/Art Hughes

Early on the morning of Feb. 25, 2003, Duy Ngo was working undercover in the central neighborhood in south Minneapolis.

He was sitting in a car when a man approached and shot him in the chest through the car's windshield. Luckily, Ngo was wearing a bulletproof vest. He called in the shooting and tried to give chase, but was winded and stopped to catch his breath.

As he lay in an alley, officer Charles Storlie approached him. Police accounts say Ngo was holding a gun and that Storlie called out to Ngo before he shot him with a submachine gun. But, other accounts say Ngo was easily identifiable as an officer and was waving his arms.

Minneapolis City Council President Barb Johnson says the Ngo incident underscores the fact that sometimes police officers have to make split-second, life or death decisions.

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"By approving this agreement ... we hope to close this chapter -- recognizing that for these two officers, life will never be the same."

"I just want us to reflect on the fact that the men and women of the Minneapolis Police Department put themselves in harm's way to defend us. Unfortunately, sometimes these life and death situations end in the worst possible way," said Johnson. "By approving this agreement today, which I'm going to recommend, we hope to close this chapter -- recognizing that for these two officers, life will never be the same."

The shooting left Ngo with a mangled left arm and damage to his groin. He still works part time for the Minneapolis Police Department.

"We were pleased the city council approved the settlement that was worked out through U.S. magistrate Judge Boylan in St. Paul," said Ngo's attorney Bob Bennett. "We had met earlier with representatives from the city, both the city attorney and council president Barbara Johnson."

Officer Storlie has left the police department and was reported to have signed on with a private security contractor in Iraq.

Ngo originally sued both Storlie and the city. The city was eventually dropped from the suit, but was still responsible for paying because Storlie worked for the city when the shooting happened.

The $4.5 million settlement is the largest city payout over a lawsuit involving allegations of police misconduct.

"This is a staggering amount of money," said Mayor R.T. Rybak.

Rybak says the payout will come from the city's $90 million self-insurance fund. The pool of money is used to pay health insurance and worker's compensation costs for city employees. And it is used to cover the costs of indemnifying police officers.

"While this is a staggering sum of money, it's also staggering how brave they are when they protect us, and so I support this action," Rybak said. "It will put to end a very sad and tragic story that, thankfully, was not even more sad and tragic."

The last two weeks have been particularly treacherous for Minneapolis police officers. Officers have been shot and attacked, and one was injured after he got dragged by a suspect who tried to flee in a car.

Earlier this month Park Police officer Mark Bedard died after he was struck by a Minneapolis police car that was in pursuit of a shooting suspect.