Lawsuit accuses former DFL-endorsed sheriff of ‘harassing, illegal, and unsafe conduct’

Following one meeting, the plaintiffs believed "that they were 'sitting ducks' at work and would be the victims of a mass shooting by Hutchinson," according to the lawsuit.

Hennepin County Sheriff Dave Hutchinson (Sheriff Dave Hutchinson/Facebook)

Hennepin County Sheriff Dawanna Witt and several other current or former staff members of the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office filed a lawsuit against Hennepin County this week. In their lawsuit, the group alleges they were subjected to mistreatment and discrimination when serving under former Hennepin County Sheriff Dave Hutchinson.

Often referred to as “Sheriff Hutch,” Hutchinson served as the Hennepin County sheriff from January of 2019 to January of 2023. Elected as a DFL-endorsed candidate in 2018, Hutchinson eventually become embroiled in controversy following a drunk driving arrest in December of 2021.

Eventually, Hutchinson announced he would not run for reelection to the position of Hennepin County sheriff in 2022. Subsequently, a major with the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office, Dawanna Witt, was elected to the position of sheriff. Sheriff Witt was also endorsed by the DFL in her race for Hennepin County sheriff.

Sheriff Witt and six other current or former staff members of the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office are now alleging that they were mistreated and discriminated against when Hutchinson served as sheriff.

In their lawsuit, filed earlier this week, the group claims that Hutchinson “created a work environment at the Sheriff’s Office filled with bigotry and fear.” The lawsuit alleges that Hutchinson “brutally demeaned many of his subordinates because of their race, sexual orientation, and other protected statuses.”

The plaintiffs’ legal filing also references a “particularly explosive meeting” which occurred in April of 2022. At that meeting, then-Sheriff Hutchinson allegedly issued threats, yelled at staff, and said he would fire senior members of the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office. According to the lawsuit, a sheriff’s office major walked out of the meeting, another left in tears.

A photo from the scene of Sheriff Hutchinson’s December 2021 drunk-driving crash.

Following that meeting, the plaintiffs believed “that they were ‘sitting ducks’ at work and would be the victims of a mass shooting by Hutchinson,” according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit also alleges that Hutchinson “threatened to fire people and talked about killing people who crossed him, often dangerously waving his loaded service weapon around while doing so.”

The group says they “reported Hutchinson’s harassing, illegal, and unsafe conduct to the County. The County refused to address it for years, ignoring its legal obligations to maintain a safe workplace free of discrimination while making the excuse that its hands were tied due to Hutchinson’s elected position.”

Given Hutchinson’s then-role as Hennepin County sheriff, the plaintiffs are holding the county responsible for his conduct. As such, the group is suing Hennepin County in a five count lawsuit which alleges race discrimination, sexual orientation discrimination, retaliation, reprisal discrimination, and negligent supervision.

The plaintiffs are seeking a jury trial and damages in excess of $50,000 for each of the five counts.

After leaving the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office, Hutchinson returned to his role as a law enforcement officer with the Metro Transit Police Department. However, the former sheriff was fired from that position in April of 2023 following an internal investigation that was connected to his conduct while serving as Hennepin County sheriff.

After his departure from the Metro Transit Police Department, Hutchinson moved to Arizona.


Luke Sprinkel

Luke Sprinkel previously worked as a Legislative Assistant at the Minnesota House of Representatives. He grew up as a Missionary Kid (MK) living in England, Thailand, Tanzania, and the Middle East. Luke graduated from Regent University in 2018.