Rally And Press Conference: The Fong Lee Case, Racial Bias, And Appealing The Supreme Court

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

While some of you may know about this case, some of you probably don't - but if you care about how law enforcement looks at members of the API community - I'll just ask that you listen, and that if you can, help spread the word about the case as well as the upcoming press conference and rally being held this Saturday, October 2nd at 2:00 PM.

Background Information (From The Press Release)

On July 22, 2006, Hmong teenager Fong Lee was with a group of friends riding bikes near the North Minneapolis Cityview Elementary School when Minneapolis police officers chased them across the playground. Officer Jason Andersen shot Fong Lee eight times, in the back, side, and then five more shots into Lee’s chest as he lay on the ground. Andersen stated he was justified in the killing, claiming that Lee pointed a gun at him. He was cleared by the MPD’s internal investigation even though neighborhood eyewitnesses were not interviewed, many of whom contradicted the police officers' version of events in community press reports.

In 2009 the family of Fong Lee brought a wrongful death lawsuit again the City of Minneapolis and Jason Andersen, citing surveillance cameras that showed Fong Lee did not have a gun and evidence that demonstrated that the gun found at the scene had been in police custody, suggesting that the gun had been planted.

When an all-white jury found that Andersen had not used “excessive force” in killing 19-year old Fong Lee, community members held numerous rallies to continue to demand justice in what they saw as a police cover-up. The family has since appealed to the U.S. Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals for a new trial, which has been denied. Now, under the representation of Hilliard, Muñoz, and Gonzales, the family of Fong Lee is taking their case to the Supreme Court, in hopes that national attention will result in a new trial of this egregious police action.

Jason Andersen was first in the media’s eye with his shooting death of Fong Lee but he has remained a contentious member of the Minneapolis police force. In September 2009 Police Chief Tim Dolan fired Andersen for violating the department’s ethics policy because of a dropped domestic assault charge. A state arbitrator returned Andersen to the force after the police union grieved the firing. Andersen is currently being indicted on federal charges for allegedly abusing a black teenager while part of the notorious and now-defunct Metro Gang Strike Force. On September 22, 2010 he was fired for a second time for violating the department’s code on “truthfulness” about this incident in which he allegedly kicked the teen in the head.
So Let's Recap
  • Asian American youth shot eight times, five times after he was already on the ground.
  • The gun that police say was pointed at them (later retracted in a statement from last year), and was Fong Lee's - its history is suspect at best - and at worst was already in police custody for two years before the shooting and planted next to Lee. And just in case you were wondering, the gun also had "no fingerprints, smudge marks, or any other evidence linking it to Fong Lee".
  • It wasn't a jury that had at least some Asian Americans or other POC on it who decided that excessive force wasn't used. It was an all-white jury.
  • The police officer in question has a history of abuse on the job.
Going To The Supreme Court

So what's happening now? It's being taken all the way to the Supreme court with a rally and press conference happening this weekend at the same school where Fong Lee was killed.



Janelle Yang, 952-201-0383
Justice for Fong Lee Committee, 612-424-1166

WHAT: Press Conference and Rally to announce the Lee family’s decision to appeal their wrongful death suit against Jason Andersen and the Minneapolis Police Department to the Supreme Court. The Lee family has retained the law firm Hilliard, Muñoz, Gonzales (http://hmglawfirm.com/) in the shooting death of their teenage son Fong Lee by Minneapolis police officer Jason Andersen, who was recently fired because of a federal indictment in another brutality charge.

WHEN: Saturday, October 2, 2:00 p.m.

Cityview Elementary School, where Fong Lee was killed.
3350 North 4th Street
Minneapolis, MN 55412

WHO: This press conference is being organized by the Justice for Fong Lee Committee and the family of Fong Lee. Family members and Janelle Yang, the legal contact for the family, will be making statements about the appeal. Community organizations and leaders will also be making statements of support.

WHY: The family and community were shocked and angered by the 2009 verdict in their wrongful death suit as well as the district court’s recent denial for an appeal. They view these decisions as part of a growing pattern of police misconduct and lack of accountability in the Twin Cities. Under new representation from the firm Hilliard, Muñoz, Gonzales, the Lee family is appealing their wrongful death suit to the Supreme Court.

Statement from the attorney:

“Amidst the recent news of Minneapolis Police Officer Jason Andersen being fired for the second time in his career for lying about events when he was accused of kicking a teenager in the head while a member of the Gang Strike Force, the family of another of Andersen's nineteenyear-old victims, Fong Lee, is petitioning for a writ of certiorari to the Supreme Court of the United States to overturn the Eighth Circuit Court's recent decision refusing to award Fong Lee's family damages after he was shot 8 times by the officer. There are a number of issues in the case
that warrant Supreme Court review and perhaps we can bring a rogue officer to justice.”
Final Word

While the facts of cases can always be disputed, you have to ask the question of how much did race play a part in the shooting and killing of Fong Lee. You have to ask the question of what really is the history of the gun and why there was no blood, fingerprints, or anything else connecting it to him. You have to ask the question of how fair was it in a case which has so many inconsistencies that it wasn't a more diverse jury that came down with the verdict.

And at this point, at this juncture, you have to ask yourself the question of if it deserves to be looked at again -- and at least for me - I have to say yes.

Please feel free to copy this post in full and cross post, or pass on the link to friends.