One year later, family of man shot by police wonders why

Angel Gaddy lights a candle to honor her father.
Angel Gaddy, 10, lights a candle in honor of her father in north Minneapolis on Oct 13, 2013 -- which would have been Gaddy's 42nd birthday.
Rupa Shenoy

On what would have been Victor Gaddy's 42nd birthday, dozens of his family and friends gathered across a busy street from his grave in a north Minneapolis cemetery.

Gaddy's 10-year-old daughter, Angel Gaddy, said a little birthday chant as they released balloons.

"Get high for Victor," she said as they shot upwards. "Turn it up. It's your birthday man!"

Angel's mother, Shalesia Havad, who organized the birthday memorial, wants to know why police chose to shoot him.

Create a More Connected Minnesota

MPR News is your trusted resource for the news you need. With your support, MPR News brings accessible, courageous journalism and authentic conversation to everyone - free of paywalls and barriers. Your gift makes a difference.

"They took somebody that was important to us," she said. "I gotta live everyday and look at these kids' faces looking just like him."

This month marks the one-year anniversary of Gaddy's death. St. Paul police shot him while trying to box his car in and detain him on suspicion of selling drugs. A Ramsey County grand jury later found the police officers' actions were justified.

Gaddy was one of eight Minnesotans fatally shot by police last year. So far this year, at least five people have died in police-involved shootings in Minnesota, according to Bureau of Criminal Apprehension reports.

Gaddy's relatives say whatever he was involved in he didn't deserve to die. They remember him as a family man who was funny and charming. He left behind 11 children by seven mothers.

But he did have a troubled past. Over two decades, police arrested him for numerous offenses including driving under the influence, assault, disorderly conduct, fleeing an officer, and trespassing. Gaddy spent 39 months at the Minnesota Correctional Facility in St. Cloud.

On the day Gaddy died, Minneapolis police conducting surveillance called the St. Paul department to tell officers there that they expected him to be selling drugs that afternoon on the city's East Side, according to police reports.

St Paul police decided to use a strategy that keeps suspects from fleeing and causing a dangerous chase. After locating Gaddy in his Crown Victoria at a stop sign, officers positioned their unmarked SUVs in front and behind his car with their lights and sirens on. A few officers got out of the SUVs with their guns drawn.

When Gaddy — still behind the wheel — backed up, his car hit one SUV, according to police reports. Two officers on foot shot him, and later said they thought he was trying to run them down.

Gaddy was unarmed. Officers did report finding some cocaine in Gaddy's car. But police shot Gaddy in a residential area in the middle of the afternoon. One of the bullets pierced the front window of a nearby home.

St. Paul Police spokesman Paul Paulos said individual officers have to make the best choices they can at the time.

"Sometimes [we], meaning the police, can't dictate when things are going to happen," Paulos said. "And it was before school actually was being let out. It was probably appropriate."

Remembering Victor Gaddy
Pictures of Victor Gaddy with his children hang above the dining table at Shalesia Havad's house in north Minneapolis.
Rupa Shenoy

Afterwards, police held community meetings to reassure neighborhood residents angry about the mid-afternoon shooting. But Paulos said he doesn't know if the St. Paul Police Department has ever reached out to members of Gaddy's family.

"In most instances a lot of families don't talk to police after an incident like this," he said. "Depending on what the family wants or how they want to close it, or closure, would be totally up to them."

Police don't talk to families because they fear being sued, said Jeff Martin, president of the Saint Paul NAACP, from whom the Gaddy family sought help.

Martin said Gaddy's relatives wanted to meet with police after the shooting, but never did. He said they haven't tried since.

"I think the lack of contact, and just ignoring the family just goes more to enrage the family and probably leads to more litigation than needs to happen," Martin said.

Gaddy's family isn't suing the city. Martin thinks lawyers would be reluctant to pursue the case because of Gaddy's criminal background.

But his loved ones are trying to deal with the loss as well as they can.

Angel Gaddy kept going to school after her father, died, but would sit at her desk and cry. She said she switched schools after other students made disparaging comments about her dad.

"They said my dad was burning down there, where the devil at," she said. "But like, that's really not true. He's up in heaven, and I know that for a fact, because he was a good person."

Shalesia Havad lost her job after Gaddy's death. For months, she sat in her home, in the dark.

But she resolved to do something after Brooklyn Center police fatally shot her cousin, Edmond Fair, in August. Now Havad is studying criminal justice at National American University.

She hopes to convince young men not to become targets for the police.

"We want to get to the kids before they get to that point where they can't turn back," she said, "before they get all the way in to the system and help them not be a victim, like Victor."