Former Minneapolis police officer Chris Reiter choked back tears on the witness stand in Hennepin County District Court Thursday as he described helping a woman who had just been beaten on the night of May 30, 2016.
Minutes after, Reiter, 36, would send the man suspected of abusing the woman to the hospital with a broken nose and bleeding on the brain.
Reiter testified that the bloodied and bruised woman told him that her boyfriend, Mohamed Osman attacked her.
"She told me the assault took place in an apartment and in a hallway," said Reiter, who became overcome with emotion. "I think she told me for 30, 40 minutes. He punched her and kicked her. And then used both of his hands to strangle her."
Reiter said the woman showed him a picture of Osman from her smartphone and described his car. Not long into their interview a responding officer radioed that a man fitting that description was right outside the building in a similar vehicle.
Before Reiter left to check out the report, he said she told him, "Be careful he's got a knife."
Security camera footage taken from the parking ramp across the street shows what happened next. A few officers come out of the building with their guns drawn as Osman exits his car with his hands up. He doesn't appear to be resisting or trying to flee. The footage shows him on his hands and knees as Reiter approaches and kicks him once in the face, knocking him unconscious.
It all happens very quickly.
Reiter testified that he only had a split second to react once he ran around Osman's car and saw what happened. He said Osman appeared to be trying to get up from the pavement instead of lying down on it.
"I wanted to stun him and keep him on the ground so he wouldn't stand up and start a fight," said Reiter.
The kick, which Reiter described as a "stunning blow," was justified, he said, because he believed Osman was extremely violent and armed with a knife.
Reiter apparently did not warn any of the officers who were in close proximity to Osman that he could be armed. And none of the officers on scene that night — including Reiter — made any official record of a knife. Officer Luke Eckert testified that he searched Osman and found a knife in Osman's right front pocket. However, he didn't include that information in his report, nor was that item entered into inventory at the police department.
Assistant Hennepin County Attorney Dan Allard aggressively questioned Eckert about how a crucial piece of property recovered at the scene of an arrest could be missing from the property and evidence room.
Eckert said one could go through any squad car and find a number of items like keys, cellphones or pocket knives that hadn't been inventoried.
"Are you telling me that I can go into any squad car and find a knife?" Allard asked, raising his voice.
"No — I'm just saying items get left in squad cars all the time," replied Eckert.
Allard also asked Eckert why he didn't mention that he found a knife on Osman when he was interviewed by the department's Internal Affairs Unit investigating the use of force that lead to Osman's injuries.
Eckert testified that investigators didn't ask him if he found a knife that night, so he didn't tell them.
Defense attorney Robert Fowler asked Reiter why he left out any mention of the victim's warning about the knife in his use of force report.
"Does it mean that it didn't happen?" asked Fowler.
"No," replied Reiter.
"You admit you wrote a deficient report?" asked Fowler.
"I agree," said Reiter.
"In hindsight do you agree you should have put more in that report?" asked Fowler.
"I agree," said Reiter.
Reiter was relieved of duty two days after the incident he said. He was later fired for what he called "conduct unbecoming of an officer."
Reiter is fighting to get his job back. Police union president Lt. Bob Kroll said the union is contesting his termination.
Another officer who was fired in 2014 for using excessive force was reinstated nearly two years later after an arbitrator reduced his termination to a suspension.
Your support matters.
You make MPR News possible. Individual donations are behind the clarity in coverage from our reporters across the state, stories that connect us, and conversations that provide perspectives. Help ensure MPR remains a resource that brings Minnesotans together.