Lawsuit claims off-duty Minneapolis Police officer assaulted man at a bar in 2017

1029 Bar in Minneapolis. Photo: Google Maps
1029 Bar in Minneapolis.

Updated: August 21, 2019 05:13 PM

A lawsuit claims an off-duty Minneapolis police officer put a man in a chokehold, dragged him outside a bar, punched him, which knocked him unconscious, and then fled the scene and lied about the incident.

The lawsuit, which is filed against Officer Clifton Toles, the City of Minneapolis and 1029 Bar, alleges the incident occurred on Dec. 24, 2017.


According to the lawsuit, the plaintiff, identified as Lucas McDonough, was at 1029 bar on Dec. 23, 2017 with friends. While waiting for his friends to close their tabs just before bar-close, it states that McDonough was talking to three women he had met at the bar, one of whom Toles had exchanged phone numbers with earlier that night.

The lawsuit, which was filed last week, then claims Toles, who was off-duty at the time, approached the group, accused McDonough of being disrespectful, identified himself as a police officer, and then put McDonough in a chokehold before asking a bar security employee to help him get McDonough out of the bar. It claims that Toles and the security employee knew each other well because Toles frequently visited the bar and helped him, so the employee helped Toles drag McDonough out a locked side door out of the sight of would-be witnesses and cameras. Once outside, it claims Toles released McDonough and punched him in the face, fracturing McDonough's cheekbone and knocking him unconscious, also causing him to fall to the ground and hit his head on the pavement.

The lawsuit claims McDonough's head was split open from the impact with the ground. He was also later diagnosed with a concussion, brain bleed and traumatic brain injury.

Meanwhile, Toles fled the scene and neither he nor the security employee contacted 911, the lawsuit states. One of the women McDonough had been talking to immediately before the incident went around the bar and found McDonough bleeding and confused, and contacted 911.

According to the lawsuit, all three women told police Toles was unprovoked in attacking McDonough and none of them said the action he took was warranted. It also claims the security employee failed to do his job to protect McDonough and later to contact 911, and never heard Toles identify himself as a police officer, but helped him take McDonough out of the bar.

The lawsuit also claims Toles then lied about what happened in a report to his supervisors, instead saying he was provoked and thought McDonough was a threat to him. It states the security employee then lied about what happened, telling officers both men were kicked out and shoving each other. The employee also denied knowing Toles, instead identifying the suspect as a black male who ran off.

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On Dec. 27, 2017, the investigation was turned over to St. Paul police because Toles was identified by other witnesses as the suspect in the incident, and MPD was conflicted. However, the lawsuit states MPD refused to provide Toles' report to his supervisors to St. Paul police investigators, claiming it was in violation of Garrity rules and couldn't be used, hampering SPPD's investigation.

But, with St. Paul Police leading the investigation, the bar employee admitted to knowing Toles and gave an account of events that now matched what the women who witnessed it had been telling police. Without Tole's report, St. Paul Police weren't able to get information from him until he came to SPPD headquarters on Jan. 26, 2018, with an attorney employed by the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association (MPPOA), the lawsuit states. It also notes the MPPOA recently represented Mohamed Noor in his criminal trial for the death of Justine Ruszczyk Damond.

The lawsuit states that Toles had claimed in his report that McDonough used "very vulgar language towards me and begun to push me in a belligerent manner." It also stated he repeatedly asked McDonough to stop. The women who witnessed the incident denied any of that being true. It also states that in his January interview, Toles changed his story, claiming instead that McDonough was walking toward him with a drinking glass and feared he'd use it as a weapon. However, the witnesses, the security employee and surveillance video from the bar all showed McDonough didn't have a drinking glass in his hand at the time.

The lawsuit also states Toles claimed in his report that he contacted the security employee before putting McDonough in a chokehold, but in his January interview said the security employee "could not get there soon enough" so he had to go "hands on" to control McDonough. It also states Toles' report claimed he used a "controlled 'arm bar' tactic" to escort McDonough out of the bar, but in January said he used "a rear shoulder lock" or chokehold.

It details further claims where Toles said McDonough swung at him after they got outside the bar, and changed his accounts of what happened after they got outside the bar. However, his accounts were still inconsistent with what the security employee and other witnesses reported to police, the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit seeks monetary damages in an unspecified amount to be determined at trial, and also claims the injury hospitalized McDonough throughout the Christmas holiday, caused the permanent loss of his ability to taste and smell, and prevented him from continuing his career in California as a professional comedian and actor.

The City of Minneapolis issued a response to the lawsuit being filed:

"Toles was not working as a police officer at the time of this incident, either on-duty or off-duty. The City has no liability here and we will be defending the City against the allegations in the suit."

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