Editor’s note: The following letter was sent to the Honorable Eric Holder, U.S. Attorney General, by the Unity Community Mediation Team members of the Police Community Relations Council (PCRC) on April 14. The same letter excepting the last two items of requested actions was also sent to Hennepin County Sheriff Rick Staneck.
Dear Attorney General Holder:
As the result of a Department of Justice mediation agreement, the Police Community Relations Council (PCRC) was formed in the city of Minneapolis for the purpose of improving relations between community members and the Minneapolis Police Department. As an outgrowth of the PCRC, members of the council created the Unity Community Mediation Team as an added entity to seek change within the Minneapolis Police Department and fill the gaps in responsibilities not covered by the PCRC.
The PCRC has now disbanded with the clarion call for change by community members remaining unfulfilled, unfunded and nonexistent. The outcome of the PCRC and the mediation process has been unacceptable at best — and in violation of U.S. Department of Justice mandates at worst.
Although city officials and police department leaders may have worked through the mediation process within the letter of law, they were never seated at the mediation table in the intended spirit of the mediation agreement. For this, we remain saddened, yet determined to seek justice in all that we do.
Recently, in the city of Minneapolis, Fong Lee, a Minneapolis resident, was fatally shot by Minneapolis police officers (eight times — including once in the back, twice in the buttocks) while being pursued in Cityview Elementary School Park. Although members of the Minneapolis Police Department originally gave statements — and testimony — that a gun had been found in possession of Fong Lee at the crime scene, it has recently come to light that the gun that Fong Lee allegedly possessed may have been planted at the scene by members of the Minneapolis Police Department; thus a necessity to have the shooting of Fong Lee immediately investigated as a homicide.
According to multiple media accounts, and specifically the St. Paul Pioneer Press newspaper, “Minneapolis police at first blamed a simple mix-up of guns. But new information has raised even more questions about the fatal police shooting of Fong Lee.”
The Pioneer Press goes on to state, “The questions stem from records that surfaced suggesting the gun found by Fong Lee had earlier been recovered by officers following a burglary. That gun, the records suggest, should have been in police custody — not lying next to a shooting victim.”
At this point in the investigation, the chain of custody of the Russian-made Baikal pistol found next to Fong Lee is in question, the original ownership of the gun in dispute, and the community’s confidence in the Minneapolis Police Department further shattered.
The Fong Lee case clearly provides another example of the need for immediate U.S. Department of Justice intervention and/or receivership in the Minneapolis Police Department.
In an effort to ensure that no further cover-ups occur, that justice prevails in this case and that we make certain that the community has continued confidence in U.S. justice system, the Unity Community Mediation Team seeks the following from the U.S. Department of Justice:
That the U.S. Department of Justice conduct an immediate investigation of all aspects of the Fong Lee shooting;
That the jurisdiction of any local investigation relative to the Fong Lee shooting be placed in the jurisdiction of a neighboring investigative entity outside of the Minneapolis Police Department;
That the U.S. Department of Justice conducts a full review of the chain of custody of the alleged evidence in the Fong Lee shooting — and that all evidence is cataloged, protected and placed in immediate custody of the U.S. Department of Justice;
That the U.S. Department of Justice conduct a full investigation relative to malfeasance on the part of City of Minneapolis officials and the leadership of the Minneapolis Police Department as it relates to participating in the federally mandated Mediation Agreement process in good faith via the formerly comprised Police Community Relations Council;
That the U.S. Department of Justice ascertain the immediate need to place the Minneapolis Police Department under federal receivership until and at such time as confidence in their ability to serve and protect the residents of Minneapolis can be fully and completely restored.
We thank you for taking our requests into consideration. We may be reached at 763-228-1748 to answer any questions you may have. Thank you.
Clyde H. Bellecourt, Rebecca Waggoner Kloek, Harry Moss, Alfred Flowers, Ronald Edwards, Rev. Mary Flowers Spratt, Norma Renville, Kelley Hardeman, Zack Metoyer and Mark Anderson
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