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Minneapolis, MN

Trump administration denied Minneapolis nearly $1 million over ‘defund the police’ comments

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Trump administration denied Minneapolis nearly $1 million over ‘defund the police’ comments


Trump administration officials used a “seriously flawed” process when the rejected a Minneapolis grant request over City Council members’ support for the defund the police movement, according to a newly released audit.

The Bureau of Justice Assistance denied Minneapolis’s 2020 application for $900,000 to address opioid overdoses, according to the report published this month by the Department of Justice inspector general.

“BJA’s justification for denying Minneapolis funding contained critical errors and omissions that we believe rendered the justification inadequate,” the inspector general’s office wrote.

The federal denial came as opioid overdose deaths across Minnesota were skyrocketing. The number of deadly overdoses involving opioids more than doubled from 2019 to 2021, according to Minnesota Department of Health data.

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The city had proposed using the dollars for a three-year Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion project. It aimed to reduce the number of people having run-ins with law enforcement and the corrections system and cut down on opioid overdoses.

“The City of Minneapolis is losing community members to the opioid epidemic at an alarming rate,” Minneapolis Health Department Deputy Commissioner Heidi Ritchie said in a statement Tuesday. “To combat this crisis, the City is looking for new and innovative ways to help our community members who are struggling with opioid misuse. We welcome any opportunity for funds to assist our response.”

Minneapolis was one of 212 groups that applied for federal funding in 2020 through the Comprehensive Opioid, Stimulant, and Substance Abuse Program.

The city received the second-highest peer review score of any application. The Bureau of Justice Assistance ultimately recommended distributing $147 million to 110 of the 212 applicants. Minneapolis was not among them.

Minneapolis had applied for the nearly $1 million in May 2020, four days before a police officer murdered George Floyd. As federal officials considered the city’s application, nine of the 13 council members expressed support for starting “the process of ending the Minneapolis Police Department.”

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That July the Bureau of Justice Assistance sent a memo with its funding recommendations to the Office of Justice Programs for approval and cited “statements of governing officials and recent news reports” as the reason Minneapolis was left out, according to the recent audit.

“The BJA [Acting] Director is extremely concerned that Minneapolis officials do not understand the impact of defunding their police, and does not believe that this law enforcement grant can be properly administered without a vibrant, fully funded police department,” the memo stated.

Minneapolis was not the only community considering “defund the police” measures after Floyd’s killing, the audit states, noting that officials in Los Angeles were also talking about such measures.

However, that community wasn’t removed from the running for grant dollars. Los Angeles County submitted a similar project to what Minneapolis proposed and ranked 68th among the applicants. It received $1.2 million.

“It’s really unfortunate” that Minneapolis, despite its high application score, was targeted over City Council members’ comments, said Brian Zirbes, executive director of the Minnesota Association of Resources for Recovery and Chemical Health.

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Zirbes has experience with government funding requests from a previous job at the Minneapolis Department of Human services. He said there it was “almost unheard of” to reject a top-scoring grant applicant. That denial “is kind of shocking,” he said.

“Overdose death rates are at an all-time high in Minnesota and are having a disproportionate impact in Black and Brown communities,” Zirbes said. “We need a comprehensive approach to address this problem.”



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Minneapolis, MN

Minneapolis gang member sentenced to 2 years for firearm possession

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Minneapolis gang member sentenced to 2 years for firearm possession


Morning headlines from April 24, 2024

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Morning headlines from April 24, 2024

02:46

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MINNEAPOLIS — A Minneapolis gang member has been sentenced on federal firearm charges. 

Kaprice Richards was sentenced to two years in prison and three years of supervised release Tuesday for being a felon in possession of a firearm, according to court records. A second charge, unlawful possession of a machinegun, was dropped, according to a plea deal.

Richards was one of 14 alleged gang members charged last summer in a crackdown that was a collaboration between local and federal authorities.

“We will not allow a small group of violent gang members to continue to terrorize our neighbors,” Minneapolis Police Chief Brian O’Hara said at the time.

That was the second significant move against Minneapolis gangs last year. In May of 2023, authorities announced Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act charges against 45 alleged gang members.

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Last month, Marquez Demar Hill-Turnipseed, another one of the 14 charged in August, received the same sentence as Richards for illegally possessing a machine gun.  



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Minneapolis, MN

Sammy McDowell remembered as ‘pillar’ of his north Minneapolis community

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Sammy McDowell remembered as ‘pillar’ of his north Minneapolis community


Hundreds of people came out to celebrate the life of the popular restaurant owner Sammy McDowell, 48, on Tuesday night.

His community of family, friends and fellow parishioners gathered in the parking lot of Shiloh Temple International Ministries in north Minneapolis.

Sammy McDowell poses for a photo at his restaurant.

David Pierini | North News 2019

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Many of the adults and children arrived at the community picnic carrying balloons of various colors and shapes. At around 6:30 p.m., the crowd released the balloons in tandem with members of communities in six states around the country where McDowell had roots.

“Sammy was a pillar of this community. Sammy loved everybody,” Shiloh minister Arnetta Phillips told the crowd. “He could give you the shirt off his back if you needed it; he would do it.”

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Person talks as others serve food

Minister Arnetta Phillips (right) speaks at Shiloh Temple in north Minneapolis on Tuesday during Sammy McDowell’s memorial picnic.

Liam James Doyle for MPR News

McDowell owned Sammy’s Avenue Eatery located along West Broadway Avenue on the city’s north side. 

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An entrepreneur who aimed to  boost economic development in the area, McDowell was also remembered by friends and community members as a singer as well as a calming presence on the northside during COVID and during the unrest which followed the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer in 2020.

McDowell was also a longtime member of Shiloh Temple. And according to Bishop Richard D. Howell, Jr. McDowell was in attendance at the church last Sunday.

“I don’t believe he was feeling well when he stepped into the church house. He was just sitting there, kind of quiet,” Howell said. “Some people noticed that he was not the same.”

McDowell collapsed toward the end of the service. He was taken to North Memorial Hospital where doctors tried to save him but he later died, Howell said.

Howell said McDowell’s death was a shock to the community.

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“Some people just didn’t know how to process their grieving after the abrupt loss of Sammy,” he said. “And so we felt like well, maybe this would be a good time for the grieving community to come together, and have some Sammy stories, share some good news about him and release some balloons together.”

It’s appropriate, considering the man.

“He was all about community. He was a champion of the community. He was a gentle giant,” Howell said.

Priscilla Roberts, a senior executive admin at Shiloh, has been a member of the church for 25 years. She met McDowell the year she joined Shiloh and they were friends ever since.

“He’s always been the same,” she said. “Very giving, incredibly warm, always looking out for other people.”

Roberts met him when he was part of the choir. 

“He did his own CDs,” she said. “I loved his voice.” 

Roberts said elders used to say that people could move between the outhouse to the penthouse. In other words, people can interact with others the same way in different scenarios.

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“That was Sammy. He would give a man a cup of coffee on the street corner and able to just serve the same coffee to Gov. Walz,” she said. “It didn’t matter to him.”

One of McDowell’s friends, Brian Bogan, attended the event with his two children.

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Brian Bogan, who has been friends with McDowell for over 25 years, at Shiloh Temple in north Minneapolis on Tuesday.

Liam James Doyle for MPR News

“He meant everything because he just really wanted to see the community thrive,” said Bogan, who has been friends with McDowell for over 25 years. “Like he wanted more for the community than he wanted for himself.”

Church officials say funeral details have not yet been finalized.

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Minneapolis, MN

Judge weighs City of Minneapolis, police chief's motion to dismiss lawsuit filed by fired former officer

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Judge weighs City of Minneapolis, police chief's motion to dismiss lawsuit filed by fired former officer


MPD seeks to dismiss defamation lawsuit

A Hennepin County District Court judge will decide if a lawsuit filed against the City of Minneapolis and its police chief will go forward.

Former Minneapolis Police Officer Tyler Timberlake, who filed the lawsuit, was ousted six months after he was hired after body camera video of him kneeling and using a stun gun on an unarmed man at his former department in Virginia surfaced in the Twin Cities last spring.

New documents reveal more questions of transparency, hiring process at MPD

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Timberlake sued the city and Minneapolis Police Chief Brian O’Hara in December, claiming O’Hara was fully aware of the 2020 use-of-force incident when he was hired but fired him months later anyway. The complaint alleged the chief of police made public false statements about what he knew and when.

Attorneys for O’Hara and the city, during a motion to dismiss hearing on Tuesday, claimed the case has no merit and requested the judge dismiss the lawsuit entirely.

Speaking on behalf of O’Hara, attorney Vicki Hruby argues that the chief cannot be sued for defamation because he has what’s known as “absolute privilege” under the law.

“I’d like to focus on Chief O’Hara’s role as a top-level executive in the City of Minneapolis,” she said, beginning to lay out the argument for “absolute privilege,” which Assistant City Attorney Munazza Humayun later referred to as the city’s “primary argument” as well.

In other words, the pair of attorneys argued, it doesn’t matter in this case whether or not the chief made false statements when he told journalists that he was unaware of the extent of the use-of-force incident Timberlake was previously involved in, claiming he cannot be sued for defamation because of his role as police chief and his responsibility to respond to media inquiries.

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“Absolute privilege exists so top-level government officials will not hesitate when executing their job duties and keeping the public informed on issues of public concern,” Hruby said. “Under [the] plaintiff’s theory, they’re trying to, essentially, muzzle government officials. That’s contrary to long-standing precedent in this state.”

“There is no muzzling,” responded Timberlake’s attorney, Joe Tamburino, in an exclusive interview with 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS following the hearing. “Public information is very important. But when you go out in the press and you defame someone, that’s not giving public information.”

Tamburino noted that O’Hara didn’t address Timberlake’s hire until questions were asked, arguing the chief’s statements to the press were “self-serving” rather than an act of public service.

“Basically, the chief and the city argued to the court that the Chief of Police should have absolute immunity. That would expand absolute immunity to basically 300 other departments — law enforcement agencies — throughout the state,” he responded. “And, think about absolute immunity. That means no matter what you say, you can’t be liable. It’s a huge expansion of the law that has never happened before.”

In defense of the absolute privilege argument, another attorney for O’Hara, Doug Kelley, told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS on Tuesday evening: “A high-ranking public official has the right to explain his actions and put information out in full transparency for the public, and Chief O’Hara has that right as he tries to reform MPD.”

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The decision on whether to dismiss the lawsuit or let it continue its course based on Tuesday’s oral arguments is in the hands of Hennepin County District Court Judge Karen Janisch. If she rules against the city and police chief’s motions to dismiss, the case would be headed for trial, where more evidence is expected regarding how much the police chief knew and when — and if, as Timberlake has claimed, O’Hara gave him assurances that his past shouldn’t be a problem upon signing off on his hire.

A ruling is expected later this summer, if not sooner.



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