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OPINION | Fong Lee case raises many troubling questions
For example, what was the grand jury told — and not told?
In June 2007, a Hennepin County Grand Jury was convened to evaluate the evidence and circumstances of the July 22, 2006, shooting death of 19-year-old Fong Lee on a school playground where he and friends were riding their bikes.
The first big question is why it took 11 long months to convene the grand jury.
The second big question follows: Why did Officer Jason Anderson of the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) and his partner that evening, a Minnesota state highway trooper, go after teenagers riding their bicycles on a school playground? The officers’ own statements suggest they were following the police racial-profiling tradition: The teens were Asian, therefore suspicious.
The third big question is why Officer Anderson shot Fong Lee three times in the back, and then, after he fell on his back, fired five more bullets into his chest as he lay there?
Why has it taken the Pioneer Press and Star Tribune nearly three years to cover the discrepancies in the MPD’s story when we covered them in this newspaper August 2, 2006?
The key question remains: What was the grand jury told? Who made the decision on what they would be told? And what questions did the grand jury ask? This is a fair question, as all-White juries and all-White grand juries in Minnesota tend not to be very inquisitive when a person of color dies at the hands of a police officer.
Was the grand jury told there was a significant dispute over which weapon that Mr. Fong Lee allegedly had in his possession, as well as the dispute over whether he had one at all? What were they told about mistakes identifying two guns identified at different times as being the gun they said Fong Lee had?
Were they told that, while investigating the history of the guns, homicide Detective (then-Sgt.) Michael Keefe became aware of the fact that one of the identified pistols was supposed to be in the property room of the MPD at the time of the shooting?
Was the grand jury told that one of the gun’s owners, Mr. Her, indicated to Sgt. Keefe that he had been told by Sgt. Folsum that the police department had checked the serial number and identified one of the guns as belonging to Mr. Her and would return it to him upon the completion of the investigation of the earlier burglary of his home?
Was the grand jury told that Sgt. Folsom, 10 days after the interview of Mr. Her, wrote a “supplemental report” regarding the mistaken identities of the two guns as they related to Fong Lee? Was the grand jury ever told of the evidence mistakes officers made? And if Officer Anderson was wrong about Fong Lee having a gun in his hand, as Chief Dolan has stated (Strib, April 14), how can we believe the rest of what Officer Anderson has said?
Was the grand jury told that, contrary to police statements, the video in the squad car had not only not been immediately secured, but it was not secured until 10 days after Fong Lee’s death, and only then because Sgt. Keefe requested that the camera be made available to him for his investigation? Was the grand jury told that upon his immediate return to duty during these 10 days Officer Anderson had access, custody and control of that video?
Why did it take two and a half years to ask an expert witness to evaluate the video, and why was it Fong Lee’s family that asked and not the MPD? The expert has certified that the squad car video was tampered with.
Was the grand jury ever told of the police forensics that reported there were no fingerprints, no palm prints, no DNA, no blood spatter on the gun the police finally say Fong Lee had, which they say they found near his body?
Assuming after 11 months that the prosecutor had this evidence, was the forensic evidence tampered with or contaminated? Was it prosecutorial misconduct creating a cover-up that delayed the grand jury 11 months?
These are the kinds of questions that burn themselves into the minds of those who seek justice and truth. God forbid that there was prosecutorial misconduct in the case of the death of Fong Lee, a 19-year-old Asian riding his bike in a schoolyard on the early evening of July 22, 2006.
Ron hosts “Black Focus” on Channel 17, MTN-TV, Sundays, 5-6 pm. Formerly head of key civil rights organizations, including the Minneapolis Civil Rights Commission, he continues his “watchdog” role for Minneapolis.
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