Man sues St. Paul, officers, saying he was beaten without cause

Updated: 8:05 p.m. | Posted: 6:09 p.m.

A St. Paul man has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city and six police officers, claiming they beat him so severely that he suffered traumatic brain injury and a fractured skull.

Michael Fleming, 31, was visiting an apartment in the Payne-Phalen neighborhood in 2011 when St. Paul police raided the home to serve a search warrant.

According to the complaint, Fleming was not a subject of the warrant. Officers struck him in the face with the butt of a shotgun, then kicked him while he was on the floor.

Fleming was arrested on suspicion of being a felon in possession of a firearm.

One of his attorneys, Scott Swanson, said Fleming did not reach for any weapons and did not resist police.

"His left eye socket was shattered and eventually he had to have surgery and have a titanium plate inserted around his eye to support the structure," Swanson said.

Another attorney, Paul Applebaum, said the injuries have affected Fleming's ability to work.

"He has incredible persisting pain in his eye and in his head, so it's very difficult for him to find steady employment," Applebaum said.

Applebaum is not sure if the officers were disciplined. Even though the incident happened six years ago, he says the lawsuit is still within the statute of limitations. It couldn't proceed sooner, because Fleming was trying to see "how well he would recover from his injuries, and that takes a long time."

"We had spoken with him, and we wanted to make sure that he was in a position to go forward with this and deal with the pressures of a lawsuit, and so he waited and we waited," Applebaum said.

Neither the St. Paul police department, nor the police union are commenting on the lawsuit.

But in a response filed with the court, the city says police acted within the bounds of the law, and any injuries Fleming sustained were caused solely by his "willful and physical resistance" to officers.

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.