Seeks damages in excess of $20 million
A lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court last week on behalf of the family of Isak Abdirahman Aden, who died as the result of an officer-involved shooting in July 2019 in Eagan.
The suit seeks damages in excess of $20 million from the cities of Eagan, Burnsville, Bloomington and Edina along with the officers involved.
The suit brought seven counts against the defendants, including deadly force/unreasonable search and seizure; excessive force/unreasonable search and seizure; denial of medical care; unjustified decision to use deadly and excessive force; wrongful death; municipal liability – failure to train, failure to discipline, failure to supervise, and condoning the use of excessive force; and negligence.
It alleges that the defendants “needlessly placed the lives of Mr. Aden and their officers at risk by launching an unnecessary, unjustified, and ill-conceived assault.” Law enforcement made no meaningful attempt to gather background information, the suit alleges.
“This conduct is contrary to the Law Enforcement Defendants’ conduct in other, similar situations with individuals who were not Black and Somali,” the suit alleges.
It also alleges that Aden attempted to surrender moments before lethal shots were fired and never pointed a weapon in the direction of law enforcement.
Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom concluded in November 2019 that the officers were legally justified in firing their weapons.
Officers initially fired less lethal rounds in an attempt to subdue Aden after about four hours of negotiation. Squad camera footage from a Minnesota State Patrol vehicle showed Aden then picked up his gun and fired a round, according to the attorney’s report.
Backstrom concluded at the time it was “objectively reasonable for the five officers to subjectively believe Aden posed a deadly threat to other officers at the scene of this incident at the time they fired their service weapons and, therefore, they were legally justified in using deadly force in this instance.”
Each officer gave statements prior to reviewing video footage or discussing details of the incident with other officers, and they all reported that they believed they and their fellow officers were in danger of being shot.
Officers initially responded to a call at 6:05 p.m. on July 2, 2019, on a report from a woman who said Aden, her ex-boyfriend, had pulled a gun on her.
According to the lawsuit, she later indicated to law enforcement that Aden never threatened her with the handgun and admitted that her prior statement to the 911 operator was untrue. She only saw the handgun in his waistband and panicked.
At approximately 6:44 p.m. officers spotted Aden running across Highway 13 onto Seneca Road and pursued him on foot.
Aden eventually sat down on the curb of a parking lot along Seneca Road, according to the Dakota County attorney’s report.
According to the lawsuit, the perimeter included SWAT teams, snipers, K-9 units, armored vehicles and an industrial fence that contained Aden. Floodlights and headlights largely blinded Aden to police movements.
At 7:07 p.m., the report states Aden put down the gun close to his right foot but did not comply with officers’ request to stand up and place his hands up. At 7:10 p.m., Aden picked the gun back up.
Officers communicated with Aden initially by shouting commands and then via a public announcement speaker system.
Officers eventually provided Aden with a cell phone, and he had numerous conversations with law enforcement.
Aden again set the gun down between his legs at 8:56 p.m. but didn’t respond to officers’ several requests to move away from the gun.
When asked to stand up and put his hands up, Aden said, “No, I don’t want to do that just yet.”
According to the county attorney‘s report, officers in command concluded that if Aden were far enough away from the gun, they would deploy flash bangs and fire less lethal munitions to get Aden farther from the gun and attempt to take him into custody.
At 10:32 p.m., Aden was approximately 18 inches from the gun, so the decision was to initiate the tactical plan.
Flash bangs were thrown toward Aden and less lethal munitions were fired by officers. Aden reportedly stood up, lunged for the gun, picked it up and began to raise his hand with the gun in it, according to the county attorney’s report.
The slow-motion version shows that Aden picked up his gun and fired a round after the less lethal munitions were fired, according to the report.
Officers found one 9mm luger at the scene that was fired from the Smith & Wesson pistol.
“The overwhelming show of force, including by using vehicles and weapons designed exclusive for assault, from four metropolitan police departments was inappropriate to the situation and unnecessarily heightened tension and added confusion and fear to a situation that could have been brought to a peaceful resolution rather than resulted in the death of Mr. Aden,” according to the lawsuit.
The use of force, the suit alleges, was not based on an immediate threat or flight, and communications between Aden and law enforcement produced immediate, significant and positive results.
The suit alleges that after picking up the gun, Aden raised his empty left hand signaling his surrender before any lethal rounds had been shot.
After officers yelled “he’s got the gun,” the five officers fired lethal shots.
According to the lawsuit, Aden never attempted to stand up; flee, point the handgun at law enforcement; make threatening gestures at law enforcement; or verbally threaten to harm, injure, or kill any person other than himself from 6:44 p.m. to 10:37 p.m.
According to the lawsuit, Aden, 23 of Columbia Heights, was a young black male of Somali descent with no criminal history other than driving violations and no history of violence.
Aden immigrated to the Unites States in 2006 with his grandmother and younger siblings after the death of both of his parents in the Somali civil war.
Aden owned a home health care agency, was a bank employee and studied at the University of Minnesota.
On Wednesday evening, July 1, the day before the suit was filed, Aden’s sister, Sumaya, led about 150 protesters from the Eagan Outlet Mall to the site of his death, shutting down traffic on Highway 13, according to a Sahan Journal report. The march also honored the 60th year of Somalia’s independence.