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'The epitome of a guardian': Slain Minneapolis officer remembered for courage, empathy

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'The epitome of a guardian': Slain Minneapolis officer remembered for courage, empathy


A photo montage preceding Jamal Mitchell’s memorial service flashed through the life of the 36-year-old Minneapolis police officer, killed in the line of duty.

It depicted him doing the things a lot of us do, surrounded by family and friends. Watching a ball game. Playing a board game. Eating a Sweet Martha’s cookie. Holding a baby, asleep on his chest.

Mitchell was on vacation. Celebrating a birthday. He was dressed as Batman and Mr. Incredible. And in his police uniform, reading to kids.

He was a man who sacrificed everything to protect the community. And a man, the images reflected, who spent his life building community, bringing warmth and affection to all those he met.

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Video (03:33) Minneapolis police officer Jamal Mitchell, who was killed on the job, was praised in eulogies for his courage and selflessness during a memorial service.

Minutes earlier, a phalanx of law-enforcement officers dressed in white, black, brown and blue stood in silent attention outside Maple Grove Senior High School as a procession of mounted police escorted the caisson wagon transporting Mitchell’s flag-draped casket. Six officers carried the casket to the front of the gymnasium and placed it next to Mitchell’s beaming portrait and several bouquets. One of the floral arrangements formed a white heart, with a jagged break down its center.

Thousands of law enforcement officers filed in to pay their respects to a fallen colleague killed on May 30 while responding to a shooting in Minneapolis’ Whittier neighborhood. Attendees were there to show support for Mitchell’s family, including his partner and their four children.

Mike Emmert, pastor of Eagle Brook Church in Wayzata, opened the service by encouraging mourners to shed tears of pain and happiness. “Today, it’s good to cry, and today it’s good to laugh and to have some joy, because of the joy that Jamal brought to all of us,” he said.

Emmert asked those assembled to step back from asking the instinctive question of “why?”: Why did this have to happen? Why would God allow this? Instead, he urged focus on questions of “what?”: What should I learn from this? What is God trying to show me? What is God doing with my heart?

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“If you ask these questions, you’re gonna find the hope that Jamal had found in his life.”

“This was Jamal’s purpose”

Mitchell’s aunt Denise Raper read the 23rd Psalm and described her nephew’s his life’s work as helping others. “This was Jamal’s purpose,” she said. “To reach down and pick you up.”

Mitchell spent most of his life in New Haven, Conn., before moving to Minnesota about six years ago. He joined the Minneapolis Police Department in 2023 and quickly became known for his exceptional friendliness — waving from his squad car and chatting people up when out on patrol. He was thorough and empathetic, often checking in on crime victims a few days after responding to an incident.

Mitchell’s colleagues said they saw him as sergeant material and wished they could clone him. In his own way, Mitchell was repairing the reputation of the Minneapolis Police Department in the wake of George Floyd’s killing. With each greeting and toothpaste-commercial smile, Mitchell seemed to communicate: I’m a part of this community. And I’m here for you.

On his third day on the job, Mitchell and his partner, Zachery Randall, had their mettle tested when they were the first to arrive on the scene of a fire. Though they lacked protective gear, the two raced inside the burning home and lead an elderly couple to safety. The rookie cop made good on what had drawn him to his new career: the chance to save lives, even as he risked his own.

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And when Mitchell did the same, on his final call, he didn’t hesitate. With this act, Raper noted that her nephew did what he set out to do. “Through our tears and heavy heart we collectively say: ‘Mission accomplished.’ “

“The very best of our city”

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey eulogized Mitchell, saying that “he exemplified the very best of our city.” Frey poignantly thanked Mitchell on behalf of all Minneapolis residents and visitors for choosing to work in the city, despite its challenges. “We will never forget the sacrifice you made,” he said. “You lived a hero. You died a hero, and you will be remembered as a hero in our city forever.”

Minneapolis Police Chief Brian O’Hara shared that Mitchell had been posthumously bestowed the two highest honors in the department: the Medal of Honor and Purple Heart. He called Mitchell “deeply committed” to the police officer’s mission to protect and serve. O’Hara said Mitchell represented “all that is good about the men and women of the Minneapolis Police Department and police officers around this state and this country.”

O’Hara said functioning democracies need guardians, and “Jamal was the epitome of a guardian of our community. Jamal was courageous to his very core. He was empathetic and deeply committed to the cause and mission of police officers in our country. He was heroic as a man until the very end.”

Two of Mitchell’s friends introduced themselves with nicknames he’d given them. Minneapolis police officer Luke Weatherspoon, who went through the academy with Mitchell, was “Dookie Lukey.” Mitchell’s neighbor Chris Dunker was “Slam Dunk.” Both shared stories of Mitchell’s selflessness including, how, the day before his death, Mitchell had jumped into a pool to grab a kid struggling in the water without pausing to slip off his prized Nikes. (Mitchell’s family, and even Emmert, were wearing Nikes in honor of the beloved sneakerhead.)

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Weatherspoon and Dunker noted how Mitchell spent hours volunteering, coaching basketball and playing with his kids in the yard. How he was so energetic and inclusive. Dunker shared that another neighbor had said that if someone were to offer him $1 million to say one bad thing about Mitchell, he simply wouldn’t be able to do it.

“What does that say about his character and reputation? It tells me he is exactly the officer we need more of in our community,” he said.

Dunker then spoke directly to his friend: “I’ll miss your bigger-than-life personality. But know this: At least twice a day every day, every day, I’ll be thinking of you and that big, bright Colgate smile.” Dunker then pulled a tube of toothpaste out of his suit jacket, stirring a laugh from the crowd.

Emmert gave the closing prayer and thanked God for “how you take something that is evil and turn it into something that is good.” The color guard escorted the flags out before Mitchell’s family exited, followed by Gov. Tim Walz. The crowd departed, many clutching blue-and-white roses, as bagpipers played.

Outside, a rifle volley was fired in salute and a single helicopter flew overhead. A final call was issued for officer Jamal Mitchell, badge 4819.

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“The community supports them”

At the start of the processional, fire trucks blocked the road. A giant American flag hung between the truck’s extended ladders and their crews saluted the stream of vehicles headed to Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. Mitchell’s body will be flown back to his native Connecticut for a service and burial.

Dean Scheidler, a retired FBI special agent who was with the bureau for 31 years, stood outside the service near fire trucks holding an American flag. He was there in solidarity and support.

“The circumstances of his killing, the way he lived his life, it’s not overstated to use the word ‘hero,’ ” he said, adding that he is a “firm believer that the profession has been done a disservice” by community members and council members who call for defunding police.

“I feel like the police need to have more advocates. They need to be stronger advocates for themselves, and they need community leaders and the public to be stronger advocates for them. You only see it when there’s a funeral … and it needs to happen all the time, every day in every interaction. The police have to earn that respect in the way they deal with people, but we have to give them the benefit of the doubt.”

On the I-94 overpass at Weaver Lake Road, Kris Foley and daughters, Erin, 8, and Cara, 6, waved flags as they waited for the procession to start. “Our dad is a police officer,” said Erin Foley, adding that she and her sister go to school with Mitchell’s children. Their dad, a Robbinsdale officer, was among those from neighboring agencies patrolling Minneapolis so MPD officers could attend the funeral, Kris Foley said.

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Greg Anzelc of Maple Grove attached two flags to the overpass fence and said the death of an officer from the community hit home. “We’re all here to show the family and all first responders that the community supports them, the state supports them.”

As the processional made its 30-mile journey, those along the roadside met the always-waving officer with gestures of respect and love: Two friends embraced and raised their hands, firefighters saluted, and a woman shaped her fingers into a heart and held it to the heavens.



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Minneapolis, MN

City is sued by family of Leneal Frazier, killed in collision with speeding officer Brian Cummings at Minneapolis intersection

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City is sued by family of Leneal Frazier, killed in collision with speeding officer Brian Cummings at Minneapolis intersection


The family of a driver killed in a collision with a speeding Minneapolis police car in 2021 sued the city Thursday, pointing out that its officers have a long history of causing deadly crashes and that it knew but never disciplined the officer involved for his penchant for reckless pursuits.

The federal civil rights and wrongful death lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Minnesota on behalf of the sister and other relatives of 40-year-old Leneal Frazier.

Frazier’s SUV was hit at the intersection of N. Lyndale and 41st avenues by a car driven by officer Brian Cummings as he sped through a red light in pursuit of a carjacking suspect on July 6, 2021.

The suit asks for unspecified monetary damages for the family and an injunction to ensure that the city’s police officers no longer engage in similar pursuits.

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A spokesman told the Star Tribune that the city had no immediate comment.

Cummings, a 14-year veteran with the Minneapolis Police Department, pleaded guilty to criminal vehicular homicide in Hennepin County District Court in April 2023. He was sentenced to a nine-month term combining time in the workhouse and on electronic home monitoring.

Many of the contentions in the suit are directed at the history of police pursuits in Minneapolis and how they have often led to deadly crashes. It also argues that Black drivers are disproportionately subjected to pursuits.

Cummings began the chase after spotting a Kia Sportage with no license plate near W. Broadway and N. Lyndale Avenue that matched the description of a vehicle that was carjacked three days earlier. The Kia’s driver, James J. Jones-Drain, fled the scene of the crash but was later arrested and charged with fleeing police and auto theft.

“In at least 15 fatalities caused by an MPD pursuit, 13 of the drivers were Black,” including Frazier, the suit says. “These pursuits are also more likely to be initiated in and continued through neighborhoods with a disproportionately high number of Black residents compared to other Minneapolis neighborhoods with predominantly white residents.”

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The suit also says Minneapolis police pursuits have ended in crashes roughly 24% of the time since 2021, a far higher proportion than for any other police department in Minnesota, according to state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension data.

The Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) knew that the practice of its officers, and Cummings in particular, “engaging in dangerous high-speed pursuits had the natural and probable consequence of causing significant injury and/or death of MPD officers,” the suit continues.

“Despite the proven danger of MPD’s proclivity for unnecessary, high-speed pursuits, MPD Chief Brian O’Hara announced in 2023 that he was planning on relaxing the MPD’s pursuit policy.”

O’Hara did just that 14 months ago when he allowed officers to chase suspects involved in certain firearm-related offenses, a change he said was needed to counter a rise in gun violence.

Cummings was not named as a defendant in the lawsuit, but it included numerous allegations against him — from the night of the crash and during his career with the Minneapolis police force:

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  • Cummings was involved in at least 12 high-speed pursuits in 2021, including the one that killed Frazier, and he knew the driver was Black in nine of those chases. His 12 pursuits accounted for 10% of all chases by Minneapolis officers. Cummings was never disciplined for his sometimes dangerous chases.
  • Even though the 3-mile pursuit he initiated before the deadly crash was not deemed an emergency, Cummings ran eight stop signs and lied to his sergeant by reporting he was going 40 mph but actually was traveling more than 80 mph. At one point, he topped 100 mph.
  • He had run a red light at 89 mph when he broadsided Frazier’s SUV.
  • Cummings’ statements at the crash scene showed no concern for Frazier. “[Expletive], I just got this car back,” the suit contends he said. Cummings approached a dying Frazier still pinned in the wreckage, said nothing to the driver and walked away.

Neither Cummings nor his attorney was available for comment.

Frazier was the uncle of Darnella Frazier, the young woman whose cellphone video of George Floyd’s death in May 2020 helped convict fired Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin of murder.



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Minneapolis, MN

Marijuana production, retail license regulations eyed by Minneapolis

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Marijuana production, retail license regulations eyed by Minneapolis


As recreational marijuana becomes legal throughout Minnesota, leaders in the state’s largest city are looking to define a wide swath of regulations for businesses and licenses before the Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) officially doles out licenses next year.

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On Thursday, Minneapolis officials discussed proposed city zoning code amendments regulating the cultivation, production, distribution, and retail sale of cannabis flower.

In an adult use cannabis staff memo, Minneapolis City Council members discussed standards that would, “regulate odor, light and glare, security, and noise, but are general in nature” while seeking to regulate the emerging industry.

“City leaders and subject matter experts across our local government have been collaborating for months to develop a framework to keep the production and sale of recreational cannabis safe for the community,” Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said in a statement.

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Several tiers of licenses will be made available by the OCM, and the council will seek to regulate each through the proposed zoning amendment.
Below is a table of licenses, with their included definition as currently proposed:

  • Cannabis microbusiness/mezzobusiness: Both allow a license holder to cultivate, manufacture, and sell cannabis, and related products. Micro and mezzobusinesses differ in the scale of operation permitted, with a 5,000 square foot plant canopy limit placed on indoor cultivation at microbusinesses, and a 15,000 square foot limit at mezzobusinesses.
  • Cannabis cultivator: Allows an entity to grow cannabis for commercial purposes. Cannabis cultivation must be conducted inside an enclosed building, and not take place in hoop houses, greenhouses, or other similar structures. A cannabis cultivation license would be limited to 30,000 square feet of plant canopy. If the business has a retail component, it would be subject to the use standards for a dispensary.
  • Cannabis/hemp edible manufacturer: Allows an entity to process cannabis or hemp to create products.
  • Cannabis retailer: Also known as a dispensary, a business would be subject to further regulations due to its public-facing, retail component. A dispensary could not share a common entrance with a liquor store, a tobacco products shop, a food and beverage shop, a drugstore or a pharmacy. It also must be located at least 350 feet from a school (though staff are considering a 500-foot requirement). It could also not be located within 350 feet of an existing dispensary.
  • Cannabis transporter: Allows a license holder to transport cannabis, hemp, or associated products from a cannabis business to a cannabis business.
  • Cannabis wholesaler: Allows an entity to obtain, store, and sell cannabis and hemp and related products for resale to a cannabis business, but not to consumers.
  • Cannabis testing facility: Allows a license holder to obtain and test cannabis and hemp plants and products, similar to a laboratory.
  • Cannabis event organizer: Allows an entity to organize temporary cannabis events that last no more than four days.
  • Cannabis delivery service: Allows a license holder to purchase cannabis or hemp products, and transport and deliver those products directly to consumers.
  • Medical cannabis combination business: Allows a license holder to cultivate, manufacture, and sell cannabis, hemp, and cannabis and hemp related supplies and products. Similar to a micro or mezzobusiness license, however, this would primarily serve the medical cannabis industry.

As licenses are granted by the OCM, local governments outside of Minneapolis will be able to adopt their own zoning ordinances.

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State statute permits local governments to limit the number of licensed cannabis retailers and businesses to no less than one registration for every 12,500 residents.

Based on 2020 Census data for the city of Minneapolis, the population of 429,954 people would equate to a minimum of 34 licenses. No current license cap for dispensary or retail cannabis operations is currently being proposed.

City staff says it aims to bring draft recommendations to the City Planning Commission and City Council in the coming months, with adoption taking place by the end of summer.

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OCM has previously said it expects to grant licenses to social equity applicants prior to early 2025.

A legislative change this session to allow early cultivation will permit social equity applicants with pre-approval to begin cultivation prior to rule-making concluding at the state level if an applicant receives approval at the local level.

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Minneapolis ordinance path to approval

The Minneapolis zoning code is the city’s regulation of land use, and exists to comply with state law, respond to changing market conditions and streamline city ordinances, among other objectives.

City Council members can propose amendments to the code, which is then researched and drafted.

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At a City Council meeting, a member can provide a notice of intent to introduce the ordinance change, which is then discussed in committee. City staff can also conduct research and analyze alternative options for the proposed changes during this period.

During the adoption process, a public hearing is held to consider feedback, and a planning commission makes a final recommendation to the council prior to a vote.

If approved, the ordinance amendment is published, and the mayor of Minneapolis can formally approve it with a signature.

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It then becomes effective the date the regulation begins. 



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Minneapolis, MN

Minneapolis police fatally shoot man they say had a gun

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Minneapolis police fatally shoot man they say had a gun


MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Minneapolis police shot and killed a man Wednesday who they say was wielding a handgun and threatening people.

Authorities received an evening call about a man in south Minneapolis with a gun who was “threatening folks” and “not acting normally,” Police Chief Brian O’Hara told reporters after the shooting. Officers were dispatched to the area and when they encountered the man, he took off on foot, police said.

Multiple officers gave chase before a confrontation ensued, O’Hara said. The man was instructed to drop his gun multiple times before officers fired, he said.

“All the information I have available to me, I have no reason to think this is anything other than a justifiable and lawful use of force by police officers,” O’Hara said.

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The man was brought to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead. Police did not immediately identify him.

The episode marked the first fatal law enforcement shooting in Minneapolis since Officer Jamal Mitchell was shot and killed May 30 in what police have described as an ambush. The man who shot Mitchell was later killed by police.

The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, the state agency that examines most police shootings, said it is investigating Wednesday’s shooting.



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