Former Isanti chief, officer named in federal lawsuit after witness tampering, lying in court

Ryan Raiche
Updated: May 05, 2020 10:24 PM
Created: May 05, 2020 04:30 PM

A handcuffed and drunk inmate who was on the other side of an excessive use-of-force case is now suing the officer, his boss and the city of Isanti.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court on Tuesday, involves an encounter captured on surveillance video from a jailhouse elevator in February of 2017.

Tampering with Justice: Police chief interfered in criminal investigation, stayed on job for 15 months

It shows former Isanti Police Officer Rodrick Barrows slamming Michael Sears to the ground, knocking him unconscious.

Barrows was charged with assault and was later found not guilty, but 5 INVESTIGATES learned last year that that criminal investigation was marred by the city’s former police chief, Gene Hill, who tampered with witnesses, lied in court and inappropriately released evidence.

Isanti City Attorney digs in, defends inaction on former police chief

The lawsuit alleges that Hill “failed to supervise, monitor, and train Barrows” and “tried to protect Barrows from criminal consequences.”

Sears’ attorney, Andy Noel, said his client was disturbed when 5 INVESTIGATES aired its report in June of last year.

Isanti city attorney calls it quits following 5 INVESTIGATES report

“I would say with the story coming out about Chief Hill's role kind of interfering with that criminal process really bothered Sears and probably energized him to do something,” Noel said. “A chief of police is supposed to embrace the justice process, and here you had a chief that apparently did just the opposite.”

The latest domino to fall in the case was City Attorney Clark Joslin, who resigned shortly after the 5 INVESTIGATES' story aired.

Joslin was the one who recommended keeping the police chief on the job even after he interfered in the criminal investigation.

A spokesperson for the City of Isanti said it has not seen the lawsuit and, therefore, has no comment.

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