Did Fong Lee have a gun on July 22, 2006, when he was shot eight times by Minneapolis police officer Jason Andersen? That’s the crucial question that a 12-member jury should begin deliberating Wednesday.
Attorneys for Lee’s family wrapped up their case Tuesday, arguing that the Russian-made handgun recovered at the scene was planted on Lee in order to cover up for Andersen’s fatal mistake. The City of Minneapolis then called just four witnesses in making the case that Andersen legitimately feared for his life and the shooting was justified. Closing arguments and jury instructions are slated for Wednesday morning.
After attorneys for Lee’s family had finished presenting their case, Minneapolis City Attorney Jim Moore argued that the lawsuit should be tossed out by U.S. District Court Judge Paul Magnuson because the plaintiffs had failed to present a credible case. But Magnuson quickly ruled from the bench that the case would proceed to a jury.
The city then presented its first witness, Michael Brave, a veteran law-enforcement officer who has frequently consulted with police departments on proper procedures and training. Brave testified that Andersen was justified in using lethal force against Lee.
“Officers do not have to be shot before they can return fire,” he said. “That’s just not part of the job.”
Brave further testified that even if Lee didn’t have a gun, it doesn’t necessarily mean the shooting was excessive force. “If office Andersen did reasonably believe he had a gun then the shooting is justified,” he said under cross examination.
Also taking the stand was Lt. Michael Graham, of the Minnneapolis Police Department. He arrived on the scene just minutes after Lee was killed. Surveillance video of Graham standing by the bloody corpse was shown to the jury.
“I’m looking at a gun,” Graham, testified, when asked what he was doing. “It was a unique looking gun.”
On cross-examination, however, attorney Michael Padden pointed out that there was no mention of a weapon in Graham’s initial police report from that evening. “Your report doesn’t document seeing the gun, correct?” Padden asked. “Yes,” Graham answered.
The final witness of the trial was Tina Schreiber. The North Minneapolis resident was enjoying a family barbeque at her residence at the time of the shooting.
“I heard somebody say, ‘Put the gun down,’ three or four times,” Schreiber testified. That was quickly followed by gunfire.
But Schreiber was uncertain how many gunshots subsequently rang out and admitted that the details of the night are a bit hazy.
“All I know is I was in my backyard and there was a kid shot,” she said.
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