FREE SPEECH ZONE | La lucha globaliza cada día: Justice and Dignity For Lorenzo Sampablo Cervantes and Fong Lee

Paramilitary repression and police brutality continue unabated on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border after three years of the assassinations of Lorenzo Sampablo Cervantes in Oaxaca, Mexico and Fong Lee in Minneapolis, MNFREE SPEECH ZONE The Free Speech Zone offers a space for contributions from readers, without editing by the TC Daily Planet. This is an open forum for articles that otherwise might not find a place for publication, including news articles, opinion columns, announcements and even a few press releases.  By Steven Renderos & Sylvia González November 1, 2009 Two different people – different stories, different places, – separated by nearly 2,000 miles, were connected three years ago when their lives were cut short by gunfire. Fong Lee and Lorenzo Sampablo Cervantes suffered a death inflicted by the gunshots of police and paramilitary officials. For Cervantes, it was one gunshot wound to the chest; for Lee, three gunshot wounds in his back, and five more to the front. Cervantes died seeking justice during the popular movement in 2006 in Oaxaca, Mexico, while Fong Lee died as a result of deeply rooted racism and police brutality in communities of color across the United States. Continue Reading

No excessive force in Fong Lee shooting, jury rules

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. Continue Reading

Fong Lee case will head to jury

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. Continue Reading

Judge threatens mistrial in Fong Lee case

Day two of the Fong Lee trial apparently started off exactly where it left off — with U.S. District Court Judge Paul Magnuson extremely pissed off. This morning he threatened to declare a mistrial in the civil case and force the attorneys for Lee’s family to cover all costs of the proceeding, according to Rochelle Olson’s excellent play-by-playover at the Star Tribune.The legal mischief started late yesterday afternoon when attorney Michael Padden, who is representing Lee’s family, flashed a photo of his bullet-riddled corpse on a projection screen in the courtroom. Lee’s family, who were seated in the courtroom, began to audibly sob.The problem with the grisly picture: it hadn’t been admitted into evidence and therefore shouldn’t have been shown to the jury. Padden claimed it was an innocent mistake. // Judge Magnuson apparently wasn’t buying it. “Let’s be candid,” Magnuson said. Continue Reading

Fong Lee rally video

Here is a video I put together from footage shot at the May 11, 2009 rally for Fong Lee held in downtown St. Paul. Fong Lee was shot by St. Paul police in 2006. For more information, see Fong Lee supporters flex muscle three years after controversial shooting death Rally for Fong Lee from Justin Schell | 612 to 651 on Vimeo.From Fong Lee supporters flex muscle three years after controversial shooting deathFong Lee was shot and killed on the playground of City View Elementary School in Minneapolis as he fled police in July, 2006. Continue Reading

Fong Lee supporters flex muscle three years after controversial shooting death

As attorneys for both sides discussed the possibility of a civil settlement inside the St. Paul federal court building Monday morning, supporters for Fong Lee marched outside, chanting “We want justice” in the Hmong language. Organizers at the rally in front of the Warren E. Burger Federal Building—including members of Lee’s family—are calling for an independent investigation into Lee’s death almost three years ago after the 19-year-old was shot by a Minneapolis police officer. The settlement hearing is in advance of a trial scheduled next week for the wrongful death lawsuit Lee’s family filed against the officer and the city.“We demand justice,” Yia Lee told the crowd in Hmong. Aimee Xiong translated for Lee, who said he is an uncle of Fong Lee and a spokesman for the family. Continue Reading

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? Continue Reading

The tears have never stopped for Youa Vang Lee

When the rest of the world watches recently released videos of her son Fong Lee being chased by police, there is growing doubt whether a gun is in the teen’s hand as initially claimed by the police. Many question if Fong deserved to be shot eight times to his death by the police officer whose story continues to be filled with perplexing holes. These videos are at the middle of rumblings in the local media and among community groups charging the possibility of a police conspiracy involving a ‘drop’ gun, cover-ups and corruption.However, when Youa Vang Lee watches these videos, she is filled with strong maternal sentiments. Her heart aches when she sees the last few seconds of her son’s precious life flashing before her eyes. She is filled with emptiness when she sees the fuzzy last images of the boy who will never get to care for the nieces and nephews that he loved and adored. Continue Reading

Who’s lying? Chief Dolan vs. Moss, Metoyer, Flowers, and Edwards

Nou Kai Lee and Youa Vang Lee, the parents of Fong Lee, at vigil following his death. (Photo from Hmong Today)While the Pioneer Press has reported extensively on the affidavits and depositions filed by the Fong Lee family in the lawsuit over the Minneapolis police shooting of Fong Lee in 2006, the Star Tribuneseems to have an inside track with the Minneapolis police department.Minneapolis Police Chief Tim Dolan decided to give the Star Tribune an exclusive interview about the Fong Lee case on Monday, rather than hold an open press conference, according to police spokesperson Jesse Garcia. From that interview, the Star Tribune reported that Dolan said that members of the now-disbanded Police Community Relations Council (PCRC) lied about hearing him say that the police found fingerprints on the gun found near Fong Lee’s body. David Hanners, the Pioneer Press reporter who has been covering the Fong Lee story, said he has requested an interview with Chief Dolan “almost daily,” but so far has not been given an interview.The PCRC was formed five years ago as a result of a federal mandate, Garcia said. The mandate ordered the council to exist for five years, in order to build communication between the police department and the community. Continue Reading