March 16, 2017 03:45 PM
A fired Minneapolis police officer accused of kicking a man in the face and breaking his nose, causing a traumatic brain injury, is expected to turn himself in Thursday.
Authorities say 36-year-old Christopher Michael Reiter of East Bethel was responding to a domestic assault call in May on Blaisdell Avenue when he allegedly kicked Mohamed Abdi Osman, who was on his hands and knees.
Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman held a press conference Wednesday to discuss the charge of third-degree assault causing substantial bodily harm.
"We do have situations when officers carry out physical force; but in this case, a kick to the face is classified as use of deadly force, and it's simply not justified," Freeman said.
He said this is the third time this year an officer has been charged with a crime, and five others have been charged with a variety of crimes since 2011.
Freeman said, "Everyone is more sensitive" to excessive force cases, and "we have so many tools for evidence" to review the incident.
He said video of the incident is "very telling."
An attorney for Reiter, Robert Fowler of Fowler Ditsch, said in a statement Wednesday night, "I believe that under the law, this officer's use of force was legally justified in this case and we dispute the claims."
"The truth is that police officers respond to situations where the use of force is required," he said. "Unfortunately, police officers also have to make these important decisions almost instantly, and sometimes with imperfect information. My client intends to dispute the allegations and maintains he was legally justified, and like everyone, he is presumed innocent."
A criminal complaint details the following:
Minneapolis police officers responded to an apartment building on a domestic assault call on May 30, 2016.
Upon arrival, officers spoke with the individual who made the call; meanwhile, another officer found the suspect, later identified as Osman, in a vehicle near the building.
The suspect was ordered to get out of his vehicle and get on the ground. While the suspect was on the ground, Reiter approached him and kicked him in the face. The suspect fell unconscious and was transported to a nearby hospital. It was determined the suspect suffered a displaced nasal bone, nasal septal fractures and a mild traumatic brain injury.
An investigation was launched after the incident, and three other officers at the scene were interviewed. All three officers stated the situation did not call for the use of deadly force; a kick to the head is defined as use of deadly force.
Reiter was relieved of his duties immediately, Freeman said.
In a statement, Minneapolis Police Chief Janee Harteau said the incident "takes away from the great strides we make daily to build public trust."
St. Paul police investigated the incident.
Reiter will have his first court appearance Thursday. He is also the subject of two federal civils rights cases.
A gas station manager claims he was the victim of excessive force in September 2014. Shawn Ross went outside to break-up a fight in the gas station's parking lot. When police arrived, they ordered everyone, including Ross, on their knees. Security camera footage shows Reiter walking over to Ross and kicking him in the stomach hard enough that he fell to the ground.
Ross contends he suffered lasting injuries. His case goes to trial in June.
South Minneapolis activist Al Flowers recently settled a federal lawsuit against Reiter for $25,000 that involved an assault in July 2014. Flowers is still recovering from that injury.
He was at the press conference Wednesday when the Hennepin County prosecutor announces charges against Reiter in the Osman case.
"I guess you have to be hurt or brain dead," Flowers said. "Something's really gotta happen to you for them to charge these officers out."
Because of Osman's lasting injuries, Freeman said charges against Reiter could be upped to first-degree assault.
Osman pleaded guilty and will be sentenced later this month for the May 2016 domestic assault.
Updated: March 16, 2017 03:45 PM
Created: March 15, 2017 12:19 PM
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