A woman who livestreamed Robbinsdale police arresting two men last year should not be prosecuted for an obstruction charge filed against her by an officer at the scene, a judge ruled.
"This Court finds that it is not fair and reasonable to require Defendant to stand trial because she did not physically obstruct, resist, or interfere with a peace officer engaged in the performance of official duties," wrote Hennepin County District Judge Susan Robiner.
The judge dismissed the case against Amy Koopman, who filmed three officers with guns drawn arresting two young black men on Aug. 16, 2018.
"I breathed a loud and deep sigh of relief," Koopman said of her reaction to the judge's decision last week. "… I was absolutely confident, as were my lawyers, that the charge was unjust, but I was not sure and had no indication that [Robiner] would necessarily or inherently rule in my favor."
Koopman, 37, was represented by attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota, who challenged the charge of obstruction of the legal process.
"Charging Amy Koopman with a misdemeanor was an attempt to chill the First Amendment right to monitor, record and even verbally challenge policing in public spaces," ACLU-MN Legal Director Teresa Nelson said in a written statement. "We hope officers across the state will take heed of this ruling and respect people's right to observe and record police activity."
Robiner ruled that case law protected Koopman's actions that day. She also said that there was no evidence to support the case against Koopman, and therefore did not address the ACLU's assertions that the charge violated Koopman's constitutional right to free speech.
Koopman said she was driving to her home in north Minneapolis when she saw officers at the car. She livestreamed the incident on Facebook, where it was viewed 18,000 times.
"I stopped and filmed because I've seen too many similar situations end poorly," she said, referring to police shootings, "and I wanted there to be a time-stamped live record of everything that happened as it happened in case it was needed in the event of a bad turn."
Koopman stood about 40 yards from the scene across the intersection of N. 36th Avenue and Halifax Avenue, where officer Joshua Heasley conducted the traffic stop. Officers Nichole Saba and Christine Allen were also at the scene.
All of the officers had their guns drawn, according to the judge's order.
Koopman said about 10 people joined her.
While about four people filmed the arrest, Koopman said she was the only one who was cited by police at the scene, presumably because she was the only one who verbally spoke out when police addressed them.
"I was appalled, because I knew I had done nothing wrong, and that filming was perfectly within my rights as was responding to the officer's statements to me and the others," she said. "It's been a long 10 months."
Chao Xiong • 612-270-4708 Twitter: @ChaoStrib