On a July afternoon in 2020, Minneapolis police officer Tyler Klund and his partner raced into a North Side chicken shack with guns drawn, on the trail of a shooting suspect. “Put your hands up!” they shouted.
When more police arrived seconds later, Klund was stomping Damarlo West on the floor of JJ Chicken and Fish, according to video captured on one of the officer’s body-worn cameras.
The officers say West ignored their commands and reached for a gun tucked into his waistband, and they were trying to disarm him before he started shooting.
In a lawsuit filed in Minnesota U.S. District Court, West alleges he tried to comply and the officers beat him anyway. According to the suit, Tyler Klund’s father, Sgt. Darcy Klund, cleared the officers of wrongdoing by conducting a supervisor use-of-force review on his own son.
City Attorney Jim Rowader denied the claims of brutality and conspiracy, saying the lawsuit exaggerates Darcy Klund’s role in the force review after the arrest. Rowader said body cameras captured the incident, and the footage will show the officers used appropriate force to disarm a dangerous suspect.
Late last month, U.S. District Judge David Doty rejected the city of Minneapolis’s request to dismiss the lawsuit. The facts must still be proven in court, wrote Doty, but “West has alleged enough to meet his burden at this early stage.”
In their reports, the officers say they had good reason to treat West as armed and dangerous. Five days earlier, he’d stolen a car at gunpoint, firing several rounds in the process. That morning, he allegedly shot at a person after an altercation at a crosswalk. A tip led them to West Broadway Avenue, where they watched him enter the restaurant, according to a police affidavit.
In a report, Mosey said West “first put his hands in the air, but then he reached down with his right hand and grabbed the … gun that was in his waistband.” Mosey reported West still grabbing for the gun as Tyler Klund dropped him, then seeing his partner “stepping on [West’s] shoulder and arm area in what I believe was an attempt to disarm” him.
The officers found a gun tucked into his waistband, and West was later convicted on federal charges of being a felon in illegal possession of a firearm.
“This could have been a deadly force incident,” wrote Mosey. “Officer [Tyler Klund’s] action stopped [West] from pulling the gun out of his pants.”
In the lawsuit, West said the officers threw him down as soon as he put up his hands. “While he was on the ground, Defendant Tyler Klund stomped hard on Plaintiff’s head, neck, back, and shoulders several times. It is believed and alleged that Defendant Klund was wearing steel-toed shoes/boots when this occurred.”
The kicks bounced his head off the restaurant floor, leaving him with two chipped teeth and a head injury, according to the lawsuit.
After the arrest, Mosey and Tyler Klund were diverted en route to the precinct to another call, so Mosey asked “Sgt. [Darcy] Klund” — who is Tyler Klund’s father — “to complete the use of force review including further physical examination and further questioning,” wrote Mosey in a report. “Sgt. Klund submitted a supplement documenting the force review” for the incident.
When West’s attorney asked for evidence in the case, the city failed to provide body camera footage from Tyler Klund’s or Mosey’s cameras to support their version of events, said Nico Ratkowski, the lawyer representing West’s civil suit.
“The body-camera footage is nowhere to be found,” said Ratkowski. “If it exists, why wasn’t it handed over?”
The lawsuit alleges the officers conspired to hide body camera evidence of an unlawful beating and intentionally chose not to collect surveillance footage from the restaurant. “After all, the footage would have demonstrated that [the officers] violated [West’s] constitutional and statutory rights at the time of [West’s] arrest,” the suit says.
Rowader said Darcy Klund interviewed West and checked him for injuries, but “this was the extent of Darcy Klund’s involvement in the force review,” said Rowader.
In court documents filed Oct. 5, city attorneys said allegations that the officers tampered with body camera are “not only implausible but are impossible,” because the footage is retained by a third-party system to which they would not be able to edit or delete.
The officers have no influence over how the city responded to West’s attorney’s data request, said Rowader. And Rowader says the employees at JJ Chicken and Fish told them there was no surveillance video of the arrest.
Rowader said the body-camera footage from the officers was not turned over to West’s attorney in the data request because it’s considered private information, due to ongoing criminal prosecution of West. “Now that West has sued in federal court, the videos can be produced during the normal course of the federal litigation,” said Rowader.
Doty denied the request to dismiss on Nov. 30. A hearing in the case is scheduled for early January. In the meantime, West is in prison on the illegal gun charge, and he’s facing state charges for shooting at the pedestrian.