A viral video of four black teens being handcuffed by Minneapolis park police after an officer drew a gun on them at Minnehaha Park on Tuesday has prompted calls for an independent investigation into the incident.
Brianna Lindell posted the video, which had more than 1 million views on Facebook as of Wednesday evening. She alleged in her post that she first noticed that the four teens were being harassed by a white teen who was using racial slurs, telling them he had a knife while holding a metal trash can lid. A girl with him was on the phone.
People nearby seemed to de-escalate the situation, Lindell wrote. After she and her partner walked on, they heard shouts and returned to see two black teens handcuffed and sitting on the ground by a squad car.
“One was begging for his shirt on the ground because he was being bitten by mosquitoes,” Lindell wrote in her post. “My partner tossed him his shirt and a cop jumped out of the squad car and started yelling at us that we were interfering with an arrest.”
Other witnesses told Lindell that the officers jumped out of their squad, guns already drawn. They pointed “the guns right in the children’s faces.”
On Wednesday, Minneapolis park police explained that they were sent to the park after a 911 caller reported an escalating, dangerous situation that included weapons. Police said no weapons were found and the incident and validity of the 911 call are now under investigation.
Park Police Chief Jason Ohotto and Park Superintendent Mary Merrill viewed the camera video. They both have requested an independent investigation of the incident to determine whether park police policies, procedures and laws were followed.
The Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MN) on Wednesday also has called for an investigation into the incident that they said stemmed from a “fake call targeting Somali Children.”
“There must be an immediate independent and transparent investigation of this potentially deadly police response to and allegedly false report targeting minority youth,” said Jaylani Hussein, CAIR-MN executive director. The incident, he said, is similar to others involving minority youth who were killed in police responses based on false information.
Park police were called to the scene about 7:30 p.m. when a caller reported that four males were holding knives and sticks.
Arriving at the scene, one officer unholstered his gun and pointed it in the “general direction” of the four teens — ages 16, 14 and two who are 13, police said.
Police said the four boys were handcuffed and detained. Police found no weapons on the boys, and the accounts by witnesses were different from what the 911 caller reported.
Police determined that one of the teens who had been detained was a runaway. He was taken to the Juvenile Supervision Center and has since been released. The other teens were released Tuesday at the park. Police ask anyone who witnessed the incident to call 612-230-6550.
Mary Lynn Smith • 612-673-4788