Minneapolis cop found guilty of assault

Kelsey Shirriff

A Minneapolis police officer was found guilty of assault Saturday for an incident last summer that left a man with severe brain damage.

Sgt. David Richard Clifford, 48, approached Brian Vander Lee, 44, for speaking loudly on the phone outside a bar in Andover last June. Clifford asked him to stop, but a few minutes later Vander Lee was still using the language, so Clifford approached him a second time. Vander Lee stood up and cursed, and Clifford said he felt endangered, so he punched him. Vander Lee fell backwards, hitting his head on the concrete, and has had three brain surgeries since the incident.

The jury found Clifford, who is a former SWAT team leader, guilty of first-degree and third-degree assault, as well as a misdemeanor assault charge. 

"This is truly a tragic situation for everyone involved," said Minneapolis Police Chief Janeé Harteau. "The actions of David Clifford, although off-duty at the time of the altercation, are not consistent with our department core values and high standards."