$160K settlement for Somali teens detained by Mpls. park police

Three women and one man stand near a podium at a press conference.
Sirat Guffe, mother of one of the boys involved in a Minneapolis Park Police incident in 2018, welcomed a $170,000 settlement announced by the Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Minneapolis on Wednesday.
Tim Nelson | MPR News

Updated: 1:50 p.m.

The families of four Somali teenagers detained by Minneapolis park police in 2018 are splitting a $160,000 settlement after lodging a human rights complaint over the officers’ handling of the incident.

Bystanders recorded part of the incident, showing the boys being handcuffed and one officer drawing a weapon. Police were responding to what turned out to be a bogus 911 call claiming there were kids with weapons threatening people in the park near Minnehaha Falls.

“The biggest thing in this case is that the police officer drew a gun while they were handcuffed,” Jaylani Hussein, director of the Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, told reporters Wednesday as he announced the settlement.

The video of the encounter went viral on Facebook and was viewed millions of times, sparking complaints by critics who said officers overreacted. The incident was also recorded on squad and body camera video.

This screenshot of a police bodycam video
This screenshot of a police bodycam video shows four Somali teens being handcuffed by two Minneapolis park police officers at Minnehaha Falls Regional Park in July 2018, with one officer pointing a gun at them.
Courtesy of Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board

The families lodged a complaint about the incident with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights, which has been withdrawn, said Ellen Longfellow, civil rights attorney for CAIR. She said CAIR also received $10,000 in legal fees for handling the case.

Authorities were unable to track down who made the bogus call, Longfellow added.

Park officials confirmed the settlement and said it had been formally approved in November. A statement from the park board says one officer was suspended for two days and received training “for not de-escalating the situation and for failing to explain or apologize to the youth after they were released from the investigatory stop.” The park board also does not admit wrongdoing on its part or by the police.

“We took the 2018 incident at Minnehaha Falls seriously and conducted an independent employment investigation of our officers’ conduct. With last year’s settlement the juveniles, their families, and the MPRB can move forward,” Al Bangoura, Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board superintendent said in the statement.

The mothers of the boys said they believed the settlement was a step toward healing and justice.

“We’re just like everyone else, said Sirat Guffe, mother of Aden Aden, one of the four boys. She and other mothers said they were alarmed and frightened by what they saw in the video of the incident.

“We want to feel the sense of happiness that everyone else in this country feels in going about their day,” Guffe said.

Halimo Isse, mother of another of the boys, Suhaib Ahmed, welcomed the settlement. “We want to make sure this does not happen to anyone else,” she said.

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