A Minneapolis police officer and sergeant with its SWAT team, David Clifford, was charged with assaulting a man at Tanners Station, an Andover restaurant on Saturday evening.
According to the criminal complaint, Brian Vander Lee was dining with his wife and brother on Tanner’s Station patio when Clifford confronted him. Vander Lee was on the phone with a friend, describing where they were seated so the friend could easily find them, when Clifford got up and started yelling “You want to keep it down?” According to witnesses, Clifford approached the Vander Lee’s table and punched him in the mouth causing him to fall backward and hit his head on the pavement.
Vander Lee’s brother and friend chased Clifford into the parking lot but his wife picked him up before they could speak to him. Clifford surrendered to the Anoka County sheriff on Sunday.
Clifford’s version of events differs substantially from that of the witnesses. Clifford informed police that he was at the restaurant with his wife and friends planning National Night Out events. He was repulsed by the language Vander Lee was using so he asked him to stop. Vander Lee stopped for a few minutes and then began swearing again. When Clifford moved towards the table, Vander Lee stood up, so Clifford punched him in self defense.
Investigators said none of the restaurant employees reported hearing Vander Lee use any offensive language.
The victim, Brian Vander Lee, was left hospitalized after undergoing surgery to relieve brain swelling. On Monday Vander Lee was reported to be off life support and in stable condition.
Minneapolis criminal defense attorney, Avery Appelman says, “The concern with this case, as with any involving a law enforcement official as a potential defendant is a cover up. Mr. Appelman stated that with any physical encounter with a police officer, the “Blue Brotherhood” tends to stick together to protect one of their own, “my experience with police officer malfeasance is that it goes undocumented and poorly investigated.” Obviously, any poorly operated investigation would benefit Mr. Clifford.
Criminal trial lawyer, Geoffrey Saltzstein asserts that “the charging already reeks of beneficial treatment, the injuries Vander Lee suffered would amount to an Assault in the First Degree which would require a judge to send Mr. Clifford to prison, whereas the lower level Assault in the Third Degree that is charged would not mandate any prison time.”
If you are charged with an Assault in Minnesota it is imperative that you secure an experienced criminal defense attorney.