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Families meet with DOJ to demand justice, police reform

One man and four women stand with fists raised, looking at the camera. On the ground behind them are numerous photos of people killed by police.
Activists and family members of people slain by police gathered Wednesday to meet with representatives of the Department of Justice, including Trahern Crews, Monique Cullars-Doty, Toshira Garraway, and Amity Dimock.

On January 11, five families who have lost a loved one to the hands of the police across Minnesota joined together to meet with the Department of Justice to demand long-term, sustainable change to policing statewide. 

The meeting was organized by Families Supporting Families Against Police Violence. FSFAPV is a support group for those who have undergone trauma at the hands of the justice system. FSFAPV Founder Toshira Garraway says the families she has worked with through this support group over the years have made it clear that these killings won’t stop until more attention is paid. 

“The only reason they launched an investigation into the Minneapolis Police is because George Floyd’s murder went all over the world. But what about the rest of us?" asked Garraway. "What about the rest of the families that are out here suffering? Aren’t our loved ones important? Deserving of justice? Acknowledgement?”

Garraway says addressing these issues again and again, city by city is exhausting. She says though the Minnesota Department of Human Rights (MDHR) completed an investigation into the City of Minneapolis and the Minneapolis Police Department, that this is not just a Minneapolis issue, but a statewide issue. 

The MDHR’s investigation found widespread discrimination and problematic police conduct.  This resulted in the negotiation of a consent decree with the city on March 31, 2023.  A consent decree is a court-enforceable agreement for a list of changes the city and police department must make. The court approved this order for the city on July 13, 2023.

Garraway lost her former partner and the father of her son, Justin Teigen, back in 2008. Teigen was found dead in a trashcan hours after being pulled over by Saint Paul Police. Saint Paul police deny responsibility for Teigen’s death. 

“Our families are not fighting because we hate the police. We’re fighting because we are not given the truth about what has appended to our loved ones. We’re fighting because we’ve been denied a basic right – the truth. We’ve been denied closure,” said Garraway.

Monique Cullars-Doty brought pictures of 40 people she says were killed by St. Paul police to put up on the wall of the Governor’s Mansion in commemoration. Cullars-Doty’s twenty-four year old nephew, Marcus Golden, was shot and killed in his car by Saint Paul police in January 2015. 

“I brought those pictures so that the representatives from the Department of Justice could put faces to the victims and what is happening and the gravity of it.”

Cullars-Doty says the police deny responsibility for Golden’s death. Police say Golden drove his vehicle towards an officer at high speed. But Cullars-Doty says there were many accusations the police made that weren’t adding up. Through the support of Communities United Against Police Brutality’s case reinvestigation program, she says she has been able to collect evidence that points to a potential cover-up.

“We were able to prove that not only did they lie about what happened and how the event happened, but we were able to prove their cover up. We were able to prove that St. Paul Police planted a gun in Marcus's vehicle. We were able to prove that they lied in saying that Marcus had tried to chase them.”

Representatives of the Department of Justice took notes at the meeting, but did not offer any promises. At the time of publishing, the DOJ had yet to reply to a request for comment.

The group presented similar experiences with police departments across the state as evidence that there are patterns that need to be addressed beyond Minneapolis.

“My son was murdered in Brooklyn center… Saint Paul is marked as one of the most murderous towns. But Brooklyn center is amongst the most murderous small towns,” said Amity Dimock. 

In 2019, Dimock’s 21-year old autistic son, Kobe Dimick-Heisler was shot and killed at home with his grandparents by Brooklyn Center police. She says a heated argument broke out between her son and her parents regarding a Wendy’s order. She says the police were called by the grandfather after Dimock-Heisler grabbed a hammer and a knife. After the situation was successfully de-escalated by the family, Dimock says three officers showed up to their home and, despite the grandparents’ advocacy for Kobe’s disability, tased and then shot Dimock-Heisler. 

According to Amity Dimock, a lawsuit was filed against the officers who she says violated Dimock-Heisler's 4th and 14th Amendment rights, along with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“Just every step of every moment – of every part of my reality seems so unfair from the moment they murdered my son. A lot of us are of course very sympathetic about what happened to George Floyd. But stuff was happening before George Floyd.  And continuing to focus only on Minneapolis because of what happened to George Floyd really is a disservice to what's actually happening in the metro and a complete slap in the face to all of us.”

On Saturday, January 13, Black Lives Matter MN, the Twin Cities Coalition for Justice for Jamar and other groups are holding a rally and a caravan from the Western Saint Paul Police District to the State Capitol. 


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