Video appears to show Minnesota officer hitting teen

Updated: 5:41 p.m. | Posted: 4:04 p.m.

A Minnesota police department said Monday it will conduct a thorough investigation into an incident involving an officer and a Somali teen after a video surfaced on Twitter that appears to show the officer pushing and hitting the young man who was talking on a cellphone.

A Somali civil rights group sought to find out whether the incident was racially motivated. Members of the Somali Human Rights Commission were expected to meet with Richfield's police chief Tuesday, said the group's chief executive, Omar Jamal.

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The incident happened Saturday night in the Twin Cities suburb of Richfield. In the video, an officer is seen approaching a teen, then yelling and pointing. The officer then pushes the teen, yells again as the two exchange words and strikes him in the side of the head before giving him another shove.

The teen in the video, Kamal Gelle, said he had a headache afterward but wasn't severely injured.

"He's a cop," said Gelle, who is Somali. "He had two dogs in the car barking. He had a gun. With everything that's been going on with police ... I got scared. I thought I was going to be a victim."

In a statement Monday, police said an investigation was underway into the incident, which they said began when officers responded to a report of a "suspicious person." They said more information would be released as it becomes available.

Gelle, 19, of Columbia Heights, said he was with friends at a park when he got pulled over. Gelle said he didn't have his license with him, and it took some time to find insurance information. The officer gave him a ticket for careless driving then said, "I don't want to see you back in this city again," Gelle recalled.

He said he then drove a short distance and was trying to talk to his brother on the phone, but his friends in the car were loud. So he stopped and got out of his car to talk.

That's when officer came up to him again and said "Move!"

Gelle said the officer then hit him. Gelle said his friends approached the officer, but it's unclear what happened next and the rest is not on videotape.

Jamal sent a letter to the chief Monday asking for an "immediate meeting."

"When someone with a uniform and a badge hits someone unnecessarily, it's horrible. It's an ultimate exercise of force by authorities," Jamal said. "We are calling for this behavior to stop."

Minnesota is home to the largest Somali population in the United States, with the highest concentration in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area.