April 19, 2017 03:25 PM
A Texas man has filed a lawsuit in United States District Court alleging excessive force and racial bias after he was assaulted by two Minneapolis police officers and a security officer while attending a Vikings game in December.
The suit, filed Friday by attorney Michael Nadini on behalf of Anastasio Lopez of Midland, Texas, claims Lopez was unjustifiably attacked because of his race and ethnicity while being escorted to a security hold at U.S. Bank Stadium after being told he would be ejected during a Dec. 1 game against Dallas. Lopez is Hispanic and a U.S. citizen.
The suit alleges that despite Lopez being cooperative with officers, he was thrown against a wall, pinned down and kneed, punched and tased by two Minneapolis police officers while a security officer stood watch or assisted.
It further alleges Lopez was falsely charged with a felony after a police sargeant swore a complaint that Lopez had attempted to disarm an officer, leading to false statements before a grand jury. Lopez is seeking at least $75,000 in damages.
The lawsuit names as defendants seven members of the Minneapolis police department: officers Russell Cragin and Anthony Rodin; Sgts. Michael Grahn and Stephen McCarty; Lt. Michael Angelo Fossum; Cmdr. Gerald Moore; and Chief Janee Harteau. Also named are the City of Minneapolis; Monterrey Security Consultants and one of its officers, Andrew Hodynsky; SMG, a management services provider to the stadium; the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority; Minnesota Vikings Football Stadium, LLC; and the Minnesota Vikings.
According to the suit, Lopez, a Vikings fan who had traveled from Texas for the game, was sitting in his seat when he was approached by a Minneapolis police officer who said he was to be taken to a security hold to have his vital statistics recorded and a photograph taken prior to being kicked out of the stadium.
En route to the security area, the officer handed Lopez off to two other Minneapolis officers, identified as Cragin and Rodin, who continued to escort Lopez while eventually being joined by a Hodynsky, the security officer.
The suit states that though Lopez was moving slowly and occasionally lost his balance because he had been drinking, he was complying with the officers' demands and did not require being handcuffed. It is unclear from the lawsuit why Lopez was ejected.
Security footage showed Lopez entering the stadium's northwest service corridor locked in arm with Rodin at 9:58 p.m., according to the suit. The suit states Lopez had attempted to turn his head and talk to Rodin multiple times, but was rebuffed until Rodin pushed Lopez into an electric golf cart in the corridor, before grabbing him again and throwing him into a wall. Lopez fell to the ground face-down, the suit alleges.
The suit states Cragin put Lopez in a headlock and pinned him down while Rodin kneed him with "at least four forceful blows to (Lopez's) abdomen."
Rodin allegedly punched Lopez four times in the face while Lopez was pinned to the ground and unable to defend himself, and Cragin on two occasions tased Lopez, according to the suit. Hodynsky at one point helped restrain Lopez and also provided instructions to the officers or directed passing staff members to look away.
The suit alleges that the group began walking toward the security center about 10:02 p.m. with Lopez in handcuffs, taser cords still dangling from his right palm while remaining attached to Cragin's weapon.
At the security processing center, paramedics removed the taser cords and treated Lopez's right eye. Lopez was then taken to Hennepin County jail, where he was booked on a charge of attempting to disarm an officer, the suit states.
Lopez denies that charge and is currently attempting to defend himself against it in a Minnesota court, according to the suit.
"The plaintiff in this lawsuit has been charged criminally by the Hennepin County Attorney's Office for his conduct related to this matter," Minneapolis City Attorney Susan Segal said in a statement. "The City just received the civil complaint and will be defending the City's interests."
Reached via email Wednesday for comment, an MSFA spokesperson said the agency does not comment on pending litigation.
Updated: April 19, 2017 03:25 PM
Created: April 19, 2017 02:48 PM
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