4 Somali-American families finalize settlement with Minneapolis Park Police for $170K in 2018 discrimination case

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The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board finalized a discrimination suit settlement on Wednesday over a July 2018 incident at Minnehaha Regional Park.

In the settlement, the families of four Somali-American teens involved in the incident with Park Police will get $170,000.

Newly released police body camera video shows the teens, ages 13, 14, 14, and 16, held at gunpoint, handcuffed on the ground, and detained by officers during the incident.

"We still deal with the fear and trauma of this incident, but part of the healing process is that we are getting justice,” said Halimo Isse, the mother of one of the involved teens.

The encounter that led to the settlement took place after a 911 caller reported teens in the park with weapons, but police found no weapons on the teens, nor the original caller.

Park Board: No criminal charges in Minnehaha Park 911 call

"A bystander stuck around and said 'no,' the boys were being threatened by someone else with a knife,” said Ellen Longfellow, a civil rights attorney for the teens. “They weren't the ones doing the harassing or the threatening, it was the other person."

Brianna Lindell says she filmed the incident, also posting it to Facebook. 

"I was shaking, because I was so mad," said Lindell. 

Lindell says she witnessed officers who seemed like they didn't know what they were doing.

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"You can tell that he was very agitated – like he was someone who didn't have the best judgment," said Lindell, describing the Minneapolis park police officers she observed. "It was like these cops already made up their mind who was in the wrong and who wasn't."

Longfellow said the families were very thankful for the witnesses who helped clear up the situation.

In May and June 2019, three of the four families filed charges of discrimination against the MPRB with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights, according to the board.

“We are committed to providing safe and welcoming parks for everyone,” said Al Bangoura, Superintendent of the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board. “We took the 2018 incident at Minnehaha Falls seriously and conducted an independent employment investigation of our officers’ conduct. With last year’s settlement the juveniles, their families, and the MPRB can move forward.”

The board said by settling the case they are not admitting any discrimination or use of excessive force by the officers.

Click here for a full statement from the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board

One of the officers involved was suspended by the department for two days and received additional training, the board said in a statement to 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS. The reason stated was for not de-escalating the situation and for failing to explain or apologize to the youth after they were released from the investigatory stop.

Each of the four families receives $40,000, with the remaining $10,000 going to legal fees to the Minnesota chapter of Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MN) that represented the teens in the case. The agreement was initially reached in October 2019.

Lindell says after what she witnessed, the additional training and settlement money won't ever be enough. 

"They can give these officers training, but that trauma is always going to be with the teenagers, but they just have to learn to live with it," said Lindell.