Attorney General Keith Ellison filed assault charges Wednesday against a former Minneapolis cop who beat a man after he fired a gun at police.
Justin Stetson was charged with one count of third-degree assault for the May 30, 2020 beating of Jaleel Stallings, whose case garnered national media attention last year when the Minnesota Reformer released surveillance footage from the incident.
According to the charges, Stetson was with a group of officers who were patrolling the streets of Minneapolis in an unmarked white van during the riots that followed George Floyd’s death. The officers, who were tasked with enforcing curfew, fired rubber bullets at civilians from the van’s side door.
Around 10:50 p.m., the officers began firing 40mm rounds, also called rubber bullets, at a group of four people in a parking lot between 14th Avenue South and 15th Avenue South. The officers allegedly did not announce their presence or issue any verbal commands.
One of the rubber bullets hit Stallings in the chest, causing him “severe pain” and leading him to believe he had been hit with a live round, a criminal complaint alleges. He was apparently unaware that the people in the unmarked van were police and so he decided to return fire, shooting three live rounds in the direction of the van.
At this point the officers exited the van and rushed towards the four individuals in the parking lot, including Stallings, who now realized the van contained police. Stallings dropped his gun and laid prone on the ground with his arms outstretched above his head, the charges say.
Stetson approached Stallings and repeatedly punched and kicked him in the face and head. Throughout the encounter, Stetson kicked Stallings in the head four times, punched his head six times, slammed his head into the pavement once, and kneed him in the face five times, according to the charges.
He did not give Stallings any commands until after he punched and kicked him multiple times, the complaint says. He eventually ordered Stallings to place his hands behind his back. Stetson continued to punch Stallings until a sergeant stopped him, the charges say.
Stallings suffered a fracture of his left orbital wall as a result. A law enforcement use-of-force expert called Stetson’s actions “unreasonable, excessive, and contrary to generally accepted police practice,” according to the complaint.
The Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis said it is disappointed that one of its former members was charged with assault. Stetson no longer holds a peace officer’s license in Minnesota.
“Officer Stetson was fired upon by an individual while enforcing the governor’s curfew order. Officers believed that individual had just tried to kill them. Officer Stetson and others moved towards the danger. It was less than 30 seconds from the time the shots were fired at officers and the encounter with the individual who shot at them,” the federation said in a press release.
“It is easy to look at this incident and judge it in hindsight and draw conclusions. It casts aside the raw, gritty, and overwhelming aspects of what it meant to live through the riots. It does nothing to address the systemic failures of Department or City leadership or Gov. Walz. It further demonizes the MPD and makes former Officer Stetson the criminal scapegoat of an incident that encompasses so much more than that of the words in the complaint,” the statement continued.
A jury acquitted Stallings of attempted murder charges stemming from the incident. The city of Minneapolis agreed to pay him $1.5 million in a settlement earlier this year.