Testimony concludes in Minneapolis cops' trialby Brandt Williams, Minnesota Public Radio
Minneapolis — Testimony in the wrongful death trial of two Minneapolis police officers who shot an unarmed man in 2006 wrapped up Thursday in U.S. District Court.
The jury of eight women and four men will now decide if officers Jason King and Lawrence Loonsfoot used unnecessary force when they shot and killed 27-year-old Dominic Felder. They will have to decide which version of the shooting story they believe, and which evidence they accept as fact.
Central to the officers' story is that Felder grabbed one of their guns, and that they killed Felder in order to save their own lives.
The officers say they began to suspect something wasn't right with Felder when they first met him. Felder refused to submit to a pat search and jogged away. The officers say they noticed Felder move his hands toward his waistband as he ran.
Loonsfoot and King got back in their car and followed Felder for about 40 or 50 yards before he stopped and turned around. King said, "I just knew he had a gun by the way he was acting."
King got out of the car, pointed his gun at Felder, and told him to put his hands in the air and lie down on the ground with his hands out. He did. But when King tried to handcuff Felder, he resisted. During the struggle, the officers say Felder continued to reach towards his waistband and eventually grabbed for King's gun.
But Felder's girlfriend, Tiana Wilson and her mother, Terry Williams, have a different story. They were standing across the street from where the struggle occurred, and they say they didn't see Felder grab King's gun. They claim at one point the officers lifted Felder off the ground to the point where Felder's feet kicked in the air.
Williams says she called the police because Felder was acting as though he was having a mental breakdown. Felder told Wilson and Williams that people were out to get him.
Jurors will also have to weigh different opinions provided on the forensic evidence.
There is DNA from Felder on several parts of King's gun, but no finger or palm prints from Felder. The plaintiffs don't believe Felder ever actually grabbed the gun. They believe the DNA was deposited by a blow from the gun to Felder's face. However, officer King denies that he struck Felder in the face with the gun.
Defense attorneys say the DNA found on the slide, trigger guard and equipment rail of the pistol cannot be explained away by an alleged pistol whipping. They say the powder residue found on Felder's left palm proves that his hand was covering a slot where a cartridge is ejected from the gun after firing.
Judge David Doty told jurors that if they decide that the officers are guilty of using excessive force, they can offer an estimate of how much money Felder's family should receive for compensation.
Plaintiffs' attorney Jim Beherenbrinker did the estimate for jurors in his closing statement. He told the jury that, had Felder lived and worked until the age of 70, he could have earned $850,000.