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Minneapolis park board settles with boys handcuffed at gunpoint

Body camera footage confirmed the boys were handcuffed at gunpoint.

Body camera footage confirmed the boys were handcuffed at gunpoint. Brianna Lindell

In mid-July 2018, an incredibly upsetting video of four Somali boys being handcuffed by Minneapolis Park Police officers hit the internet.

As the story went, officers responded to a 911 call  from Minnehaha Park to about four boys “harassing” the caller and her boyfriend with “weapons”—“sticks, knives, I don’t know,” the caller said. Cops found the boys, all between 13 and 16, completely unarmed, but nonetheless put them in handcuffs and loaded them into a squad car.

As seen in body camera footage (check the 0:45 mark below), one officer pointed his gun at them.

The teens' story went public because they weren't alone. A bystander dutifully recorded the whole thing on her cellphone. She said it had been the boys, not the callers, being harassed—by a white teen yelling “racial slurs”—and she wanted to know why they were cuffing the kids instead. The footage went viral, and the Minneapolis Park Board suddenly had some difficult questions to answer. 

That video is no longer on Facebook, but a version of it can be seen here:

On Wednesday, the families of those boys got some semblance of closure. The Minnesota chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) announced families had settled with the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board for a total of $170,000, $40,000 for each of the boys, and another $10,000 for CAIR’s legal services.

“We believe we would not be standing here talking about it if it wasn’t for the courageous, determined, and important witnesses and bystanders who not only recorded the incident but also came to the aid of the young people,” CAIR-MN director Jaylani Hussein said.

Civil rights attorney Ellen Longfellow said the officers “never bothered” to ask anyone on the scene what actually happened, and they never pursued anyone for making a false 911 call. The boys were simply released late that afternoon, she said—without even contacting their parents.

“Soon after that, the boys and their mothers came to CAIR,” she said.

After a drawn-out battle with the park patrol in an attempt to get the police report—a feat that took a year—one of the officers received a two-day suspension as punishment for unnecessarily escalating the situation. It was only after CAIR made motions to file charges with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights that the park patrol came to the table and worked out a settlement, Longfellow said.

Sirat Guffe, one of the boys’ mothers, thanked the bystanders and CAIR for their help. The boys, she said, are still dealing with the shock of what happened. Having people on their side certainly helps.

“Today, we just want to let people know we’re just like everyone else,” she said, allowing Hussein to translate. “We want the same opportunities for us and justice for us as anyone else.”

You can watch the entire press conference here.