A recently filed lawsuit claims that a 56-year-old man was waiting for the bus — not protesting the police murder of George Floyd — when Minneapolis police fired a projectile at him from the Third Precinct roof.
More than three years later, the lawsuit contends, Abdi Edan Adam struggles with vision problems in his right eye and bears a conspicuous dent on his head. The math tutor living in Minneapolis said his injuries are "akin to the government-sponsored brutality he had sought refuge from in this country when fleeing Somalia."
Attorney Paul Applebaum filed the lawsuit last week in Hennepin County District Court, but the case has since moved to Minnesota's federal District Court. It seeks more than $1.5 million in damages from Minneapolis for violating Adam's civil rights for excessive, unlawful use of force. The city, the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) and eight unnamed officers are listed as defendants.
Minneapolis has paid millions of dollars to settle claims of police brutality or officer misconduct in the aftermath of Floyd's murder on May 25, 2020.
The day before protesters sent the Third Precinct up in flames, Adam, now 59, was in the vicinity of Minnehaha Avenue and Lake Street attempting to catch the bus home when he was struck, according to the lawsuit.
Applebaum in a statement said Adam was committing no crime and "utterly compliant."
"What the MPD officer did was a grotesque use of unwarranted deadly force. Unfortunately, this episode was just another example of decades of abuse by the MPD against the citizens of Minneapolis."
City spokesperson Casper Hill said in an email that the city is "declining any comment on this litigation at this time."
According to the lawsuit, Adam was outside the precinct around dusk when the scene was calm. At the time, there was no order to disperse or curfew announced.
"Suddenly and without warning of provocation ... officer John Doe 1 fired a rubber bullet, or 40 mm impact projectile, from the roof of the Third Precinct, striking Mr. Adam in the forehead," the lawsuit reads.
No officials rendered aid to Adam. Instead, protesters took him to the hospital. He suffered a concussion, emotional trauma and medical bills, according to the lawsuit.
MPD and city officials said they supported peaceful protests, but at the same time police commanders and supervisors were authorizing "indiscriminate and unreasonable use of weapons against civilians," the lawsuit maintains. Under MPD policy, officers are forbidden from deploying 40mm projectiles for crowd control purposes. Further, supervisors are required to respond any time one is used.
Officers violated MPD policy by not filing a use-of-force report. Had the report been filed, the identity of the shooter and witness officers would be known. The officers involved also had body-worn cameras. That video should have been included in the report.
Instead, supervisors turned a blind-eye and failed to hold officers accountable, the lawsuit claims. "[S]uch matters ensures that the Blue Wall of Silence remains intact."
In findings released this summer, the U.S. Department of Justice determined that MPD routinely uses excessive force, fails to render aid to people against whom they have used force, and its inadequate review system contributes to a pattern of unlawful use of excessive force.
Applebaum referenced several other cases of civilians suffering similar injuries by MPD during the unrest, including Jaleel Stallings. Last year, Minneapolis paid Stallings $1.5 million in a federal lawsuit against the city and MPD for shooting him with a rubber bullet. When he returned fire at the unmarked van, not realizing they were police officers, he was beaten despite his immediate surrender.
Among other payments by the city:
- $2.4 million to Soren Stevenson, who lost his eye after he was struck by a 40mm projectile while standing with a group of other protesters on a closed ramp near I-35W.
- $1.8 million to two women who say police shot them in the face with projectiles while they peacefully protested.
- $600,000 to freelance journalist Linda Tirado, who was blinded in one eye by a police projectile while covering protests of Floyd's killing
- $500,000 to Jaime Bunkholt, a photographer from Atlanta, who alleged an officer fired a rubber bullet from the roof of the Third Precinct that hit her in the back of the head.
- $57,900 to Graciela Cisneros, who suffered an eye injury when a police officer fired a projectile at her as she and her partner were walking home after a demonstration.
- $32,314 to Ericka Khounedaleth who claimed MPD yanked her from her car at gunpoint and pushed her to the pavement.