Judge throws out most claims in Fong Lee lawsuitby Brandt Williams, Minnesota Public Radio
A U.S. District Court judge on Wednesday threw out nearly all the charges filed by the family of Fong Lee against the city of Minneapolis and Officer Jason Andersen. Andersen shot and killed Lee in 2006. But the judge's ruling does not dismiss claims of a police coverup.
Minneapolis — The most sensational allegations made by the family of Fong Lee involve an alleged coverup at the scene of the shooting.
The family says Lee was unarmed just before Minneapolis police officer Jason Andersen shot and killed him near a north Minneapolis elementary school. They allege that officers planted a gun next to Lee's body to justify the shooting, and that officers tampered with the squad car video.
In his memorandum, Judge Paul Magnuson did not weigh in on whether or not there's evidence of a coverup.
His memo states that the family had failed to provide evidence of a pattern within the department. Magnuson writes:
"Even assuming that Minneapolis Police officers did in fact alter the video from the squad car and plant the gun at the scene of the shooting, Plaintiff has still failed to produce any evidence that the City has a history of tampering with evidence to cover up police misconduct."
However, Magnuson later writes that the court does not discount the seriousness of the charges of a coverup.
Minneapolis police officials would not comment about the decision.
The family sought other charges against the city because it is Andersen's employer. They claimed the city was negligent in hiring Andersen, failed to properly train him and failed to properly supervise him.
Lee family lawyers had presented the results of psychological exam of Andersen, which concluded that the officer had a "moderate risk of not functioning well under stress."
However, Magnuson said the family failed to prove that by hiring Andersen the city put members of the public at risk. In fact, Magnuson's ruling essentially dropped all the charges against the city.
Magnuson also threw out the family's intentional infliction of emotional distress claim against Andersen.
But Magnuson did not dismiss claims that Andersen deprived Lee of his constitutional rights. Nor did he throw out charges that Andersen's actions constituted assault, battery and wrongful death.
Even though charges against the city have been dropped, it can still be held liable, if a jury found Andersen guilty of assault and battery.
Calls to a Lee family lawyer were not returned, and Minneapolis City Attorney Jim Moore declined comment.
A settlement conference for the trial is set for next Monday.
- Morning Edition, 05/07/2009, 7:50 a.m.