The Minnesota Department of Human Rights (MDHR) has determined the Brooklyn Center Police Department and Michaels Stores, Inc. discriminated against a Black 16-year-old boy when a store manager called police, who then threw him to the ground and arrested him.

According to MDHR, the teenager went to the Michaels at 1300 Shingle Creek Crossing in Brooklyn Center on March 19, 2019, to apply for a job. Instead, he was arrested and, during the encounter with police, repeatedly pleaded for his life. 

"Rather than following their own policies and training, MDHR found that the officers immediately used unjustified and unreasonable force," a news release says. And during its two-year investigation, MDHR determined body-worn camera footage contradicted reports and testimony that police officers provided. 

“It’s unimaginable how the scariest day of my life started with applying for a job at Michaels. Police were called because of my skin color and they abused me to the point I thought I was going to die. No human should fear the police when we are taught that they are protectors. There should be some changes so this never happens again,” the then 16-year-old, who hasn't been identified, said in a statement. 

MDHR released determinations in the case on Thursday, finding the Brooklyn Center Police Department and Michaels Stores, Inc. violated the Minnesota Human Rights Act, which is the state’s civil rights law, for racial discrimination.

MDHR determined there is probable cause to find the police department discriminated against the boy because of his race. It also determined there is probable cause to find that Michaels denied the boy access to a public accommodation because of his race, and that the store failed to hire the boy because of his race. 

“The facts of this case are both shocking and unsurprising. There was no reason for Michaels to call the police. And no Black child should ever have to plead for their life from police,” Minnesota Department of Human Rights Commissioner Rebecca Lucero said in a statement. “What happened to this kid is a clear violation of his dignity and his civil rights. We can and must do better, especially when it comes to kids.”

What MDHR says happened

The boy, who was 16 years old, 5 feet tall and 100 pounds at the time, went to the Michaels store to apply for a job. 

At about 6:37 p.m. on March 19, 2019, the white store manager called 911 and made false allegations to the police about the boy because he's Black, saying he was creating a disturbance and was asked to leave multiple times but wouldn't, MDHR's two-year investigation shows.

MDHR says that was not the case, citing surveillance video that shows the boy acting like a typical customer when the manager asked him to leave, which he did shortly thereafter.

The boy then went back into the store because he was frustrated, believing he was kicked out because he is Black. The manager and another employee blocked him from coming into the store and they yelled at each other briefly before the boy walked away. He didn't touch anyone, MDHR says.

Then at 6:45 p.m., eight minutes after the first call, the manager called 911 again, claiming the teenager was "hostile" and starting to "touch" employees.

Two white police officers and a sergeant arrived at the store shortly after the second 911 call was made — all three were wearing body cameras, MDHR's investigation says. 

One officer and the sergeant spoke with the store manager, who said the boy called her and her employee "goofy bitches" and was "waving his phone in their faces, recording."

Meanwhile, the other officer who was in the squad car saw the boy walk into another store in the complex, and the officer followed, spotting the boy and said, "Come here man. ... I gotta talk to you, bro," MDHR says. 

The boy responded, "What's going on sir?" and "What's going on officer?" But the officer didn't answer and continued walking quickly toward the boy and reached to grab the boy's arm. 

The boy stepped back and said, "Don't touch me" and put his hands in the air. 

Within 7 seconds of the officer first speaking to the boy he grabbed him. While the officer held the boy, the other officer and sergeant arrived. The other officer grabbed the boy and they both threw him to the ground. 

"While face down on the ground, the officers and the sergeant grabbed and pulled [the boy] by his locs (dreadlocks), put a knee into his back, and handcuffed him," MDHR says, citing body camera footage. 

While on the ground, the boy said, "Don't kill me, I want to grow up." He was eventually put up against the wall, when he pleaded, "I didn't do anything," and repeatedly said, "I want to grow up."

The boy was charged with disorderly conduct, trespassing and obstructing the legal process, though the charges were eventually dismissed. He was also banned from Michaels for one year. 

MDHR said the officers in testimony and reports tried to justify their actions with statements that didn't align with what was on the body camera footage, alleging the boy was a flight risk, fighting the police, resisting arrest and seeking attention with his comments about wanting to live. 

Meanwhile, store employees told MDHR the manager who called 911 had a history of racially profiling Black customers. 

What's next

MDHR says it will next seek structural change through a "conciliated settlement agreement" with both the Brooklyn Center Police Department and Michaels Stores, Inc. 

It will also seek monetary relief for the then 16-year-old boy. 

In a statement to Bring Me The News, a Michaels spokesperson said: “We take any claim of discrimination very seriously and work every day to make Michaels as inclusive and diverse as possible. In this instance, we disagree with the findings based on the facts of the incident and plan to appeal the decision."

MDHR is Minnesota's civil rights enforcement agency. Anyone who has experienced or witnessed discrimination is encouraged to call the discrimination helpline at 1-833-454-0148 or submit this online form.

Bring Me The News has reached out to the Brooklyn Center Police Department and the City of Brooklyn Center for comment. 

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