Evidence released to Isak Aden’s family members after City Council appearance
Apple Valley has released evidence in Isak Aden’s fatal shooting by police to his family, after advocates for Aden spent the bulk of the Oct. 24 City Council meeting demanding that the requested data be provided.
Apple Valley Police Chief Jon Rechtzigel said Monday that the department electronically released partially redacted documents to the Aden family on Oct. 25, including the incident report and summary report for the South Metro SWAT Team. Police also released body camera footage from an Apple Valley officer who was inside of a SWAT team vehicle during the incident.
“After we reviewed the data, we decided it had no bearing on the investigation. We just went ahead and released it,” he said.
Apple Valley was one of nine law enforcement agencies that responded to a July 2 standoff with the 23-year-old Columbia Heights man at a parking lot on Seneca Road in Eagan. Siblings and supporters of Aden requested evidence in the shooting, which authorities say followed nearly four hours of negotiating with Aden to drop a gun and surrender.
Apple Valley Police Capt. Greg Dahlstrom said Apple Valley officers Cory Christianson and Gregg Neumann responded to the Aden incident as members of the South Metro SWAT Team. Their role included delivering the team’s Bearcat vehicle, which does not have a dash camera.
The only body camera footage Apple Valley has from the incident, is a roughly 4-minute clip showing the inside of the Bearcat. At the time of the shooting, Christianson and Neumann had been rotated out and were taking a break in a “rehab area” away from the scene, Dahlstrom said.
“They were not interacting with the inner part of the perimeter, so we don’t have any footage to provide that’s going to bring any clarity to anything,” Rechtzigel noted at the City Council meeting.
Aden’s siblings and supporters of the Aden family said city officials had not responded an early July data request for information even after they had taken all the legal avenues.
“We don’t want to be here. We want to be grieving. We want to be home,” said Sumaya, Isak Aden’s sister.
Nearly 20 people attended the Oct. 24 meeting, including family members of Brian Quinones, who was fatally shot by police in Richfield on Sept. 7. Authorities say Quinones led police on a chase that began in Edina and confronted officers with a knife.
Ashley Quinones, the widow of Brian Quinones, told the Apple Valley City Council she planned to file her own data request with the city. Dahlstrom said Oct. 25, the department checked its calls for service for Sept. 7, and its records indicate no Apple Valley officers responded to the Richfield incident.
Demonstrators have confronted city officials at meetings in multiple communities, demanding the release of evidence in the Aden and Quinones cases. Most recently before Apple Valley’s meeting, protesters took over the Oct. 22 city council meetings in Burnsville and Richfield. The Burnsville and Richfield police departments also responded to the Isak Aden incident.
In Burnsville, Isak Aden’s family members and supporters said the city had not responded to a data request from July.
The Dakota County Attorney’s Office has previously said it received the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension’s investigation of the Aden case on Sept. 3. Burnsville City Manager Melanie Lee told the newspaper on Oct. 23 that the city was notified a decision is expected in the next several weeks.
“We are allowing the process to run its course and will not attempt to affect the investigation, particularly in a situation such as this where Burnsville was an assisting agency. The city will respond to the data requests upon the conclusion of the process,” Lee said, adding that she expected the city will revisit its policy and practices for investigative data releases.
The Sun Current reported on Oct. 25 that Edina allowed members of the Quinones family to view dashcam footage pertaining to Brian’s death the week prior. Anger from family members and others erupted at the Oct. 22 Richfield meeting, after the family learned that city would not release dashcam footage to the family or public until the investigation is complete.
Apple Valley’s response
Apple Valley’s meeting was calmer than Burnsville, which had included shouting, chanting and profanities along with the Burnsville council members’ name tags being swept from the council dais by an Aden family member.
Some outbursts occurred at Apple Valley’s meeting when one of the council members asked if it was necessary for everyone to speak if they were all requesting the same thing, and at the end when attendees demanded a specific time and date for the data release.
Many of the Apple Valley city officials typically in attendance were absent from the Oct. 24 meeting. City Administrator Tom Lawell, Rechtzigel, City Attorney Michael Dougherty and two police captains and a police sergeant, dressed in plain clothes, were present. The name tags normally set out during Apple Valley’s meetings were also absent.
Attendees spoke to the City Council members during public comment for nearly 75 minutes.
Sumaya described how her family moved to the United States in 2006 for a better life. She said Isak Aden was a “breadwinner.” Her brother owned his own health care business, cared for their grandmother and was set to graduate this year from the University of Minnesota.
“We have to be Isak’s voice because he can’t speak for himself,” she said.
Most expressed frustration that the city had not released information more quickly. Some cited state statute that says law enforcement can make data classified as confidential or nonpublic accessible to a person or the public if the agency determines access will “aid the law enforcement process, promote public safety or dispel widespread rumor or unrest.”
Mayor Mary Hamann-Roland told the attendees that Backstrom’s office indicated it would be reaching out to family members in mid-November with more information.
In a statement, the County Attorney’s Office said the policy in cases involving a death caused by a law enforcement officer is to always offer to meet with family members and their attorney to discuss their decision in the case before any information is made public.
“The County Attorney’s Office is currently reviewing all of the evidence gathered and their decision in the matter is anticipated in the next several weeks,” the statement says.
Dinni Aden, Isak’s brother, said they were already aware of Backstrom’s plans to meet with them, but they wanted action from council members, not just the chance for his family to talk to them.
“What you can do as city council members is at least ease our stress as family members,” he said.
After being pressed for a time, Hamann-Roland said they would get back to the family by 3 p.m. the next day.
When asked why Apple Valley did not release its data sooner, Rechtzigel said his department was following the standard practice of providing information to the BCA, which then puts the case together for submission to the County Attorney’s Office for its review.
“We did receive this request in July as they stated. We were following protocol. I know that’s not popular,” he said.
John Gessner and Andrew Wig contributed to this report. Patty Dexter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.