Former Minneapolis police officer charged with assaulting Black man during George Floyd protests in 2020

Former Minneapolis police officer charged with assaulting Black man during George Floyd protests in 2020

Jaleel Stallings allegedly suffered “severe bodily harm” from ex-officer Justin Stetson repeatedly punching, kicking and kneeing him in the head and face.

A former Minnesota police officer has been formally charged with assaulting a Black man during George Floyd protests in May 2020.

CNN reported that according to the complaint, filed Wednesday in Hennepin County District Court, Jaleel Stallings suffered “severe bodily harm” as a result of former Minneapolis police officer Justin Stetson repeatedly punching, kicking and kneeing him in the head and face. Stallings was already lying on the ground with his hands on the concrete when Stetson assaulted him, it claims.

“As a result of the assault, Mr. Stallings suffered a fracture of his left orbital wall — the facial bone that surrounds and protects the eye,” the office of Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison said in a statement. “As outlined in the complaint, an expert use-of-force review of the case materials concluded that then-Officer Stetson’s use of force was ‘unreasonable, excessive, and contrary to generally accepted police practice.’”

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison is seen in June 2020 announcing charges against three former Minneapolis police officers in the death of George Floyd. This week, Ellison’s office charged another former officer, Justin Stetson, with assault for allegedly beating a Black man protesting Floyd’s fate at the hands of police. (Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

The encounter happened amid civil unrest on May 30, 2020, five days after former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin killed Floyd when he kept his knee on his neck for over nine minutes.

According to the complaint, Stetson was one of many police officers in an unmarked van who fired “less-lethal” bullets at a crowd of protesters that included Stallings.

Stallings believed he was hit by a live bullet and was unaware that police officers had fired at him. The complaint claims he fired back at the officers, but none were hurt. According to his lawyer, Stallings fired in self-defense, believing civilians were attacking him.

Protesters in Minneapolis urge justice for George Floyd on May 26, 2020, a day after Floyd was killed. At a gathering a few days later, protester Jaleel Stallings was injured, and a former police officer has now been charged with assaulting him. (Photo: Carlos Gonzalez/Star Tribune via AP, file)

After Stallings fired rounds and the police jumped out of the van in response, the complaint alleges, he realized they were cops and dropped to the ground face down with his revolver out of reach. Stetson kicked and punched Stallings in the head and face after verbally acknowledging that he was down as the cops drew near, according to the charge. He reportedly continued to attack Stallings after restraining his hands behind his back.

The Associated Press previously reported that Stallings’ facial injuries were visible in a booking photo taken after his arrest. He also reportedly had trouble breathing, which his attorney, Eric Rice, claimed was probably brought on by the rubber bullet’s impact on his chest.

The complaint claims that Stetson’s actions “violated the most basic norms of policing,” according to an independent investigation of the incident conducted by a veteran law enforcement officer.

Stallings faced eight criminal counts — including two of second-degree attempted murder, related to the shots he fired at officers — but a jury acquitted him of all charges. He and his attorney argued self-defense during his July trial, saying he fired because he believed civilians were attacking him.

He later named the city and several police officers, including Stetson, in a civil rights lawsuit that the city agreed to settle this year for $1.5 million.

Before being approached by Stetson and Sgt. Andrew Bittell, Stallings sat immobile for 20 seconds and did not appear to be a threat, according to a pretrial ruling from Judge William Koch. The judge determined that Stetson’s and Bittell’s actions were objectively unreasonable and violated Stallings’ Fourth Amendment rights during the arrest.

“Officer Stetson and Sergeant Bittell allowed their anger and/or fear to overtake their faculties, and they beat Mr. Stallings for nearly 30 seconds before attempting to place him in handcuffs,” Koch wrote, AP reported. “The video evidence does not support their testimony Mr. Stallings was resisting arrest in any way, instead he surrendered to their authority.”

According to CNN, Stetson faces up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine if convicted.

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