Ex-cop says Hamilton's use of force 'unreasonable'

An ex-cop testified that he didn't think Minneapolis police officer Efrem Hamilton was justified in using deadly force after a car backed into Hamilton's squad in Nov. 2016. The former officer, Mike Quinn, also talked about why officers may protect each other in court after a prosecutor questioned whether witnesses may have changed their testimony.

Quinn was a Minneapolis police officer for nearly 24 years. Over the last several years, Quinn has been paid to testify in use of force cases — often against officers. Last year, he testified against former police officer Christopher Reiter, who assaulted a man during an arrest in 2016.

Quinn, who is a police ethics consultant, said Hamilton's use of force was not only unjustified, but also reckless. As Assistant Hennepin County Attorney Tara Ferguson-Lopez played portions of Hamilton's body camera video, Quinn pointed to pedestrians and a few police officers nearby who could have been harmed had Hamilton missed his target.

"When you're teaching fire arms, sometimes you have to look at what's down range," said Quinn.

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None of the six passengers in the car Hamilton fired at were hurt.

Hamilton fired one shot from close range. And then approached the car to tell everyone to put their hands up. Quinn said the first thing Hamilton should have done was to ask if everyone was OK. Defense attorney Fred Bruno has said Hamilton's use of force was justified because immediately following the collision, the BMW's engine revved — as if the driver was attempting to hit him again.

But Quinn disagreed. He said it sounded to him like the revving noise came from a nearby police ATV.

The trial, which began last week, has relied on the testimony of several current Minneapolis police officers. And some of them appeared reluctant to testify against one of their own.

During a conference in court, but outside the jury, Ferguson-Lopez told judge Fred Karasov that she believed three officers had "altered" their previous statements to sound more favorable to Hamilton.

For example, the lead investigator in the case, Sgt. James Jensen gave testimony today that was apparently different from a statement he'd provided before the trial. Jensen testified that after reviewing all the squad and body camera footage from the incident that the sound of a revving engine came from the BMW after it backed into Hamilton's squad car.

However, Ferguson-Lopez challenged Jensen's assessment, saying that his prior assessment of the revving sound was not that conclusive.

She also asked Quinn if police officers may either alter police reports or be reluctant to testify against other cops. Quinn said yes. He said that's part of what he called the "code of silence." Quinn said that code, which some also refer to as the "blue wall" prevents officers from holding other cops accountable when they do something wrong. He also wrote a book about his time on the force that deals directly with the subject.

Bruno filed a motion earlier this month which asked Karasov to prevent Quinn from talking about the subject. However, Karasov said after hearing Ferguson-Lopez's concerns, it was appropriate to let Quinn continue to talk about it.

Bruno began his cross examination of Quinn just before court wrapped for the day. He started by challenging Quinn's credentials. Bruno pointed out that it's been nearly 25 years since Quinn last patrolled the streets of Minneapolis. And he said use of force training techniques have changed a lot since Quinn was an instructor on the subject.

The state is expected to rest its case Tuesday after Quinn's testimony is done.