Police: Probe finds no officer misconduct in activist arrest

Al Flowers thanked a roomful of supporters.
Al Flowers thanked a roomful of supporters at the Minneapolis Urban League offices in north Minneapolis, July 29, 2014, after he was arrested.
Brandt Williams | MPR News 2014

An independent investigation into a confrontation last year between an African-American activist and two Minneapolis police officers found the officers were justified in arresting the man and using force.

The report authored by members of the Nilan Johnson Lewis law firm, which was hired by the city of Minneapolis, says the accounts of the arrest offered by the officers and Flowers differ sharply.

Flowers has said the officers showed up at midnight at his home last July to arrest his teenage daughter. The report says Flowers demanded to see a warrant, but the officers didn't have one, nor were they legally required to produce it.

"The Investigator acknowledges Flowers had cause to be upset," reads the report, which omits the name or any pronouns referring to Flowers' daughter. "...The officers could have exercised their discretion to deescalate the confrontation before the critical moment to grasp (redacted) to apprehend (redacted)."

Grow the Future of Public Media

MPR News is supported by Members. Gifts from individuals power everything you find here. Make a gift of any amount today to become a Member!

According to the report, the officers said Flowers became aggressive. But Flowers' attorney Bobby Joe Champion says there are reasons to doubt the officers' accounts.

"You've got one officer who says Mr. Flowers was aggressive and yelling and swung at him, and did all these other things," Champion said. "Where the other officer says, no, I never saw any of that happen."

Investigators say the officers were justified in using their fists and legs to subdue Flowers, who sustained cuts and bruises during the struggle.

The law firm also found no evidence to support Flowers' claims that officers Jon Schliesing and Christopher Reiter's actions were motivated by racial bias or because of Flowers' role as an activist who speaks out against police misconduct. "There is no reason to believe that the responding officers knew Flowers or were aware of his community activities," investigators wrote.

Champion disagrees with the findings. If Flowers had been white, he likely wouldn't have been arrested, he said.

Flowers was not charged with a crime and Champion says Flowers' civil lawsuit against the city is currently in federal court.