CNN reviewed more than two hours of excerpted videos from multiple police body cameras released Tuesday by an attorney for a man who was recently acquitted on charges of firing a gun at officers after they fired nonlethal bullets at him on May 30.
May 30 was perhaps the most forceful response to protests seen by CNN crews on the ground up to that point in the week. This was after multiple nights of buildings being burned and five days after George Floyd was killed. A citywide curfew went into effect at 8 p.m. that evening.
In one video that is timestamped around 1 a.m., on May 31, 2020, then (he has since retired) Minneapolis Police Commander Bruce Folkens is heard telling an officer during a debrief, “Tonight it was just nice to hear, ‘we’re going to go find some more people, instead of chasing people around.'” He continued, “you guys are out hunting people now, and it’s just a nice change of tempo.”
Around 10:40 p.m. on May 30, Minneapolis police Sgt. Andrew Bittell is heard saying, “We’re rolling down Lake St. The first f**kers we see, we’re just handling them with 40’s,” apparently referring to 40 mm nonlethal rounds which certain Minneapolis police officers use to control crowds or during civil disobedience.
Five minutes later, they speed toward a gas station, “Go, go, go, get up there!”
“Let them have it, boys,” Bittell said.
As they begin firing on the group, the group scatters, and officers later learn the group includes the gas station owner and his family and friends who were there to protect the station.
In a separate location just after 10 p.m. on May 30, 2020, Lt. Johnny Mercil approached Officer Michael Osbeck and said, “F**k these media.”
In what appears to be a mocking tone, he said, “Hold on a second, let me check your credentials, make a few phone calls just to verify.”
Mercil goes on to tell the officer it’s time to start putting people in jail instead of scattering them. He also said, it would “prove the mayor wrong about this ‘White supremacists from out of state.’ Although this group probably is predominantly White, because there’s not looting and fires,” he said.
Mercil oversees MPD’s use of force training and was a prosecution witness in the trial of former Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin, who was convicted of murdering Floyd on May 25, 2020.
The identification of the officers comes from a state court order corresponding to the body camera videos.
The footage was released Tuesday by attorney Eric Rice, who represents a man named Jaleel Stallings, recently acquitted of eight counts tied to May 2020, including second-degree murder, first-degree assault, second-degree assault, and second-degree riot.
Stallings was acquitted by a jury after a July trial.
“The evidence contradicts reports made by law enforcement officers, as well as common assumptions of how law enforcement and the criminal justice system should operate,” Rice told CNN. “I am glad that the public can review the evidence for themselves and compare it against the statements made by the involved officers and the prosecution. Through transparency, I hope that our law enforcement and criminal justice systems can be improved.”
Some of the footage released depicts part of the incident involving Stallings. According to his attorney Rice, Stallings said he was “aware of credible threats of White supremacists and other civilians seeking to cause harm that evening,” and so he put a gun in the back seat of his truck.
A man later ran past the parking lot Stallings and his group were in, yelling “they’re shooting, they’re shooting!” Stallings did not know, “that person was running from shots coming from (Minneapolis Police) Unit 1281’s unmarked van a block away,” Rice said.
Stallings then went behind his truck to take cover, at this point he had retrieved his gun from the truck, while other members of his group got in their cars to leave. As Stallings began to try and do the same toward the driver’s side door, an officer fired a 40 mm nonlethal round in Stallings’ direction, according to Rice.
Nonlethal rounds and subsequently gunshots are heard in the body camera footage of Sgt. Bittell on the night of May 30.
“Mr. Stallings thought that he had been struck by a bullet and was bleeding out. At the time, Mr. Stallings did not know and had no reason to believe that the van contained law enforcement officers,” according to his attorney Rice. “Mr. Stallings stopped going toward his truck door and shifted his weight backward to get into cover behind his truck. Mr. Stallings raised his firearm to use suppressing fire toward the van to disrupt further shots toward him while he got into cover.”
“Mr. Stallings fired toward the ground in front of the van to disrupt the attack. Mr. Stallings testified that he fired at that location to minimize the risk of harm or death to those in the van while firing in a controlled manner. Mr. Stallings wanted to show force to disrupt further attack and cause the van to flee the area,” according to Rice.
According to the initial criminal complaint, Stallings “crouched down as if to pick up something. Officers were concerned another rock or piece of debris was going to be thrown at them and deployed one 40-mm round at Stallings. Almost immediately, Officer A saw three to four gunshot muzzle flashes from Stallings chest toward law enforcement. One round sparked and ricocheted in front of officers. Officer A believed the officer in front of him had been hit. Stallings then ran and took cover behind the truck. Officers then exited the van and went to locate Stallings. Officers fanned out and approached the truck from both sides. Officers treated this as a deadly force situation as they believed Stallings was still armed and could kill them.”
CNN has reached out to the Minneapolis Police Department for comment on the body camera videos released Tuesday, along with the Minneapolis Police Federation regarding the specific law enforcement named, but has not received a response.