Minneapolis police officer Jason Andersen did not use excessive force when he shot Fong Lee eight times on July 22, 2006, a jury ruled this afternoon. No damages will be awarded to Lee’s family, who filed the wrongful death lawsuit in federal court.
The 12-member, all-white jury deliberated for roughly six hours before determining that Andersen had not acted negligently in shooting the 19-year-old North Minneapolis resident. The week-long trial before U.S. District Court Judge Paul Magnuson featured 35 witnesses and competing narratives of what occurred on the night in question.
Lee’s family argued in their lawsuit that he was unarmed and presented no threat to Andersen at the time he was gunned down. They also contended that the Russian-made handgun recovered at the scene was planted there by the police.
Attorneys for the City of Minneapolis countered that Lee was a dangerous gang member and that Andersen only opened fire because he legitimately feared for his life. He was awarded a Medal of Valor by the department for his conduct.
The jury apparently found the latter narrative to be more credible.
Minneapolis Police Chief Tim Dolan issued a statement this afternoon hailing the court decision. “Officer Andersen acted with courage and integrity in fulfilling his duty to serve and protect the people of Minneapolis,” Dolan said. “Unfortunately, in return, the department and Officer Andersen have had to endure highly inflammatory accusations that have unfairly caused hardship for him and his family. We are pleased that Officer Andersen has been vindicated, and now hope that we can all move forward and heal as a community.”