On May 30 of last year, five days after former officer Derek Chauvin killed George Floyd and two days after rioters burned and looted the 3rd Precinct police station, a group of officers led by Sgt. Andrew Bittell was driving down Lake Street in an unmarked white van.
They spotted a group of people standing outside a Marathon station at 17th Avenue — not far from other gas stations that rioters had torched earlier in the week. Bittell’s body-worn camera was recording as he ordered his officers to shoot at the group with 40 mm marking rounds. The projectiles have a foam tip and are coated with green paint; they’re fired out of a launcher at 90 miles an hour, often from close range.
It was only after shooting at and pepper-spraying the group that the officers learned it included the gas station owner, his family and friends. They were outside past curfew trying to protect their property. A crew from Vice News was there interviewing the family and reported on the incident the next day.
The officers continued driving west. Minutes later, officer Michael Osbeck spotted another group. The officers slid open the door of their unmarked van and fired 40 mm foam rounds at them. One of the civilians shot back with a handgun.
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The man who returned fire was Jaleel Stallings. As soon as he realized it was police who shot at him, Stallings — who was struck in the chest — surrendered. He pushed his Mini Draco pistol away and lay spread eagle face down on the ground. Even as Stallings complied with their commands, Bittell and officer Justin Stetson kicked and punched him before Bittell ordered a stop to it.
The Hennepin County Attorney’s Office would eventually charge Stallings with attempted murder and assault. The 28-year-old African American Army veteran rejected a plea deal from prosecutors that included a 12-year sentence.
Stallings — who has no criminal record and a permit to carry a handgun — took his case to trial. In their complaint, prosecutors said Stallings “did not comply and resisted” police. But body camera and surveillance video played in court contradicted those claims.
Stallings told the jury that he had a credible fear of white supremacist groups roaming Minneapolis to inflame tensions. Not knowing the shooters were police, Stallings said he fired in self-defense.
Jurors believed Stallings, and acquitted him of all eight counts last July. His attorney Eric Rice said it’s important for the public to know that the official narrative from authorities did not align with the facts.
“We want to release the source evidence so the public can see firsthand what happened, and how that matches up with the narrative given by the police and prosecutors, as well as general expectations about how law enforcement and the criminal justice system work.”
So far no officers have been disciplined for their actions in response to the riot. Minneapolis Police Department spokesperson officer Garrett Parten said the MPD is unable to comment because of an ongoing, internal investigation.
The video release comes as Minneapolis voters are deciding on a charter amendment that would reshape public safety in the city, and as the MPD faces a slew of lawsuits from protesters and journalists who suffered serious injuries. Some plaintiffs allege that police shot them in the face with projectiles, which caused permanent damage to their eyes.