Students allege MPD bias

Police arrested two people who contributed to an “unruly” group of 50.

Kevin Behr

;Police responded to a noisy party complaint at a house early Sunday, and witnesses said they arrested a black man for no reason, calling it an incident of racial profiling.

Police said his behavior was unruly, and he obstructed the legal process.

Ian McConnell, a communications and business management junior who lives at the house in the Southeast Como neighborhood, said his roommates were throwing the party, and it started to get a little crazy.

“We started kicking people out before the cops even got there,” he said.

But when two Minneapolis police officers arrived at 1:10 a.m., they found more than 200 people at the party and told everyone to leave, according to a court complaint. McConnell said everyone cooperated, but the police seemed to be in a bad mood and were perhaps overly aggressive.

The complaint said about 50 people remained in the backyard, “drinking beer and talking loudly.” Minneapolis Police Lt. Amelia Huffman said people were also throwing things at the squad cars, hitting them.

McConnell said when his friend and former roommate, Demar Ford, the only black person at the party, exited the house, police trained a flashlight beam on his face.

“They started asking him lots of questions like, ‘Who are you? What are you doing here?’ ” McConnell said. “Demar said, ‘what’re you gonna do, take me downtown?’ “

According to the complaint, the officers said he was drinking beer from a pitcher and his loud behavior was making the rest of the crowd unruly.

Huffman said Ford was “whipping up a frenzy,” shouting and taunting officers with racial remarks.

“He was inciting the crowd,” she said.

That’s when the officers grabbed Ford and shoved him up against the squad car, choking him with a flashlight, McConnell said.

Huffman said the officers did not report the use of any force in their report. She said a lateral vascular neck restraint (a chokehold) technique is sometimes used to subdue a suspect actively fighting with officers, but it was not used in this case.

McConnell said he told the officers the action looked like racial profiling because his friend wasn’t doing anything wrong, and one of the officers grabbed McConnell and threatened to arrest him as well.

Another friend at the party, Kara Josephson, a political science and global studies junior, yelled when McConnell stayed silent.

“I said four words that I probably shouldn’t have,” she said. “I said, ‘Talk about racial profiling.’ “

One officer turned and arrested Josephson for inciting a riot, she said. She spent two nights in jail for the felony and had her charge dropped to misdemeanor disorderly conduct in court Tuesday.

Officers originally charged Ford with fourth degree assault of an officer because he pulled away while being escorted to the squad car and rammed his shoulder into an officer, trying to knock him down, Huffman said.

The charge was later dropped to a gross misdemeanor obstruction of the legal process. Ford was also charged with misdemeanor disorderly conduct, the complaint said.

All told, he could face up to a year in jail and/or a $4,000 fine.

Ford was released from jail Wednesday and will go to court again in April, his mother, Tiffany Ford, said.

“It’s kinda disturbing,” she said. “He said the charges were bogus. He’s going to fight it.”

The Fords have sought the help of criminal defense and civil rights attorney Stephen Smith. Smith, who has spent most of the past 19 years working on civil rights cases, said it’s too early to tell if this is a case of racial profiling. He said the case is “concerning.”

Tiffany Ford said she wants to fight this because – of the 50 loud people in the backyard – the police singled out the only black person in the crowd, and her son didn’t do anything wrong.

“This is an unfortunate event,” she said. “My son is not a criminal, and he didn’t deserve the treatment he got.”