Wrongful death trial of Minneapolis officer beginsby Brandt Williams, Minnesota Public Radio
Jury selection begins Monday morning in a wrongful death lawsuit against a Minneapolis police officer. The officer shot and killed 19-year-old Fong Lee in 2006. The trial will center on whether or not Lee was carrying a gun before the shooting.
St. Paul, Minn. — Testimony will portray two very different stories about what happened on the afternoon of July 22, 2006.
Lee family lawyers will call witnesses who will say that on that day, 19-year-old Fong Lee and his friends were riding their bikes toward Cityview Elementary School.
Some of Lee's friends have said in depositions that officer Jason Andersen drove his squad car up quickly behind them and bumped into Lee's bicycle, knocking him to the ground.
Witnesses for the defense will offer a different story.
Officer Jason Andersen has said that as he and partner State Trooper Craig Benz got about 20 feet away, they saw one of the young men hand a dark object to Lee. They believed the object to be a gun.
Normally, a police car's dashboard camera would automatically kick in as soon as the officer turns on the lights and sirens. But for some reason, the squad camera missed the first few seconds of the incident.
A security camera mounted on the school captured the moment the patrol car drove up behind the young men. But the car did not make contact with Lee's bicycle.
Lee laid the bike down and took off running out of camera view. The other men scattered in different directions.
Officer Andersen ran after Lee. Benz joined the pursuit but was a few dozen feet behind.
Andersen has said in court depositions that Lee had the gun in his right hand - although he can't remember if Lee had his finger on the trigger.
Andersen is also expected to testify that he saw Lee make two attempts to swing the gun back toward Andersen. However, Andersen says Lee never directly aimed the gun at him.
Andersen shot Lee from behind several times and said Lee fell onto his back and made another attempt to raise the gun.
That's when the office shot him four or five more times. Andersen says Lee's gun fell three feet from his left hand.
The trial will also include testimony on the security camera video which captures a brief section of the chase by the school.
Lee family lawyers will call a forensic video expert to the stand, however Judge Paul Magnuson has ruled that he will not be able to offer his conclusion that Lee was not carrying a gun.
Family members believe that police planted a gun found at the scene. That's because even though Lee's body was covered with blood - no blood, fingerprints or trace evidence was found on the gun.
The trial could include testimony by police officials, that Lee was a suspected gang member.
However, Judge Magnuson has ruled that the testimony about gang affiliation can not be used to determine damages for the family.
- Morning Edition, 05/18/2009, 7:45 a.m.