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Brooklyn Center police, Michaels Stores discriminated against 16-year-old, Dept. of Human Rights finds

A state investigation determined officers used unjustifiable and unreasonable force against the teen after he was racially profiled by a store manager.
Credit: KARE

BROOKLYN CENTER, Minn. — A state investigation has determined that Brooklyn Center police officers and a store manager discriminated against a 16-year-old Black teen who was trying to apply for a job.

The Minnesota Department of Human Rights (MDHR) issued the ruling Thursday, saying the officers used unjustifiable and unreasonable force against the teen after he was racially profiled by a store manager at the Brooklyn Center Michaels location. 

“The facts of this case are both shocking and unsurprising. There was no reason for Michaels to call the police. And no Black child should ever have to plead for their life from police,” said Minnesota Department of Human Rights Commissioner Rebecca Lucero. “What happened to this kid is a clear violation of his dignity and his civil rights. We can and must do better, especially when it comes to kids.”

Investigators for MDHR say the incident dates back to March of 2019, when the white store manager called 911 on the Black teen, who was applying for a job at Michaels. Investigators allege the manager, who had an established history of racially profiling Black customers, made false allegations about the teen to police. 

MDHR says when three white Brooklyn Center police officers showed up, they found "a frightened and surprised Black 16-year-old who immediately raised his hands in the air." Investigators say that rather than following their own policies and training, the officers immediately used unjustified and unreasonable force.

Throughout the encounter, the Black 16-year-old reportedly pleaded, “I want to live,” “I want to grow up,” and “Don’t kill me.”

Investigators say body camera footage they reviewed contradicted the officers' version of what happened during the incident.

“It’s unimaginable how the scariest day of my life started with applying for a job at Michaels," said the victim following the MDHR ruling. "Police were called because of my skin color and they abused me to the point I thought I was going to die. No human should fear the police when we are taught that they are protectors. There should be some changes so this never happens again.”

A press release sent out by the MDHR emphasizes that under the Minnesota Human Rights Act, it is illegal for police departments and businesses to discriminate against someone because of their race. The department says it will seek change by reaching a settlement agreement with the Brooklyn Center Police Department and Michaels Stores, one that includes monetary damages for the victim.

Anyone who has experienced or witnessed discrimination, MDHR is urged to call the state discrimination hotline at 1-833-454-0148, or file a complaint online.

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