Lawsuit claims officers’ use of deadly force against Somali American man was unjustified

The family of Isak Aden, a Somali American man who was shot and killed by police in Eagan, has filed a civil rights lawsuit alleging that Aden was the target of unjustified lethal force in part because of his race.

Police officers shot and killed Aden during an hourslong standoff in an Eagan parking lot on July 2, 2019.

Aden, a 23-year-old Columbia Heights resident, studied information technology at the University of Minnesota and owned a home health care business. According to the lawsuit, Aden did not have a criminal record aside from driving violations and no history of violence.

The lawsuit was filed in federal court on Thursday, the one-year anniversary of Aden’s death. It seeks $20 million in combined damages from the cities of Bloomington, Burnsville, Eagan and Edina.

On the evening of the standoff, Aden’s ex-girlfriend called 911 and claimed that Aden had threatened her with a handgun and forced her to drive. Eventually, Aden jumped out of the vehicle and was found in an industrial parking lot, where a SWAT team later surrounded him and asked him to leave the gun on the ground.

According to the Dakota County Attorney’s Office, the SWAT force attempted to apprehend Aden using flashbangs and "less lethal munitions."

After the plan went into action, Aden reached for a gun, picked it up and began to raise his right hand with it, the attorney’s office stated. Five police officers then fired at Aden. He later died.

The lawsuit claims that the "militarized, aggressive response" used to subdue Aden had all but eliminated his threat to the public and that at Aden posed no threat at any point leading up to the use of a flashbang.

The document also states that the officers did not adequately communicate with Aden to deescalate the situation and that the officers turned to force because it "was the only manner of dealing with a young, Black, Somali male."

In September, Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom determined that the use of force by the five officers involved was justified and that no charges would be filed against them. In his justification, Backstrom said Aden fired the gun after he picked it up.