Activists demand Minneapolis Police fire former Virginia officer who used stun gun, struck and knelt on unarmed Black man
Social justice activists Tuesday made a public plea to Minneapolis Police, demanding the department fire one of its newer officers.
Before coming to Minneapolis, Officer Tyler Timberlake was charged, and later acquitted, for assaulting an unarmed Black man at his former department in Fairfax County, Virginia.
That incident happened just days after former Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin murdered George Floyd.
Minneapolis Police Chief Brian O’Hara, in a statement to reporters in April, said he was “extremely concerned about what I have just learned pertaining to the hiring of this individual,” months after Officer Timberlake was hired on his watch and started work in January.
“Effective immediately, I am directing that a thorough investigation be conducted into this matter,” the April 18 statement continued.
A spokesperson confirmed to 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS Tuesday that the internal investigation is ongoing.
Those gathered at City Hall said they want Timberlake released from the department immediately.
“Fire this man. Get him out of here,” Communities United Against Police Brutality President Michelle Gross said, beginning the press conference. “He displays the kind of problematic culture that we are trying to change in the Minneapolis Police Department, and it’s time for him to go.”
Gross, among several social justice activists, hearkened back to spring 2020.
Days after Chauvin knelt on George Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes, Timberlake — then employed in Fairfax County, Virginia — knelt on a man named La Monta Gladney’s neck.
“Literally without provocation,” Gross said, referring to widely shared body camera footage of the June 5, 2020 incident. “Mr. Gladney was having a mental health crisis. He was walking around in circles.”
As the video begins, first responders are trying to coax Gladney into an ambulance. Shortly after, Timberlake pulls up in a car, gets out, walks toward Gladney, and within seconds, tases him, bringing him to the ground.
In the same minute, Timberlake puts both of his knees on Gladney, one on his back and one on the back of his neck. The officer tells Gladney to “relax,” before striking him in the head with the stun gun and tasing him in the back of the neck as Gladney calls out for help.
A Fairfax County jury ultimately acquitted Timberlake in March 2022.
In a statement sent to ABC affiliate television station WJLA at the time, Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano said, in part, “While I am disappointed in the outcome of the trial, I am not surprised.”
Then in January 2023, Timberlake was hired in Minneapolis, a City spokesperson confirmed.
“Someone clearly does not have their eyes on the ball in terms of oversight of this process,” Nekima Levy Armstrong said during the Tuesday press conference.
Levy Armstrong was front and center in police reform conversations with City leaders after Floyd’s death.
Minneapolis Police would not comment further Tuesday. Instead, a spokesperson forwarded two previous statements from April attributed to Chief O’Hara. Timberlake had not and “will not be deployed or serve in any law enforcement capacity” until the ongoing internal investigation is complete, the initial statement said.
“The bottom line is they knew, they knew his background, and they hired him anyway,” Gross said, concluding the press conference.
In a separate civil case, Fairfax County paid La Monta Gladney a $150,000 settlement in 2022. Gladney’s lawyer told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS on Tuesday that he sent a copy of the settlement agreement to O’Hara in April and received no response.
The attorney who represented Timberlake in Virginia did not respond to request for comment Tuesday.