Charges: Minneapolis police officer fired into car full of 6 bystanders without warning

Officer Efrem Hamilton is charged with second-degree assault and dangerous discharge of a firearm.
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A Minneapolis police officer is facing felony charges after firing into a car full of bystanders during a late-night brawl in the city's downtown.

Officer Efrem Hamilton, 42, is charged with second-degree assault and dangerous discharge of a firearm, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced Tuesday.

The charges come in connection with the Nov. 19, 2016, incident – shortly after bars closed at 2 a.m. in downtown Minneapolis, a report of a fight comprising 30-40 people drew officers to the 400 block of 3rd Ave. N, police said at the time. Two people had been injured by gunfire and officers heard shots fired.

During the commotion, a vehicle full of passersby hit the side of an officer’s squad, police said. The officer responded by firing his weapon at the BMW, and a single bullet hit the side.

Nobody was injured. But in December, the six people in the car at the time held a rally demanding Hamilton be fired.

Details from the charges

The attorney's office Tuesday included details from the criminal complaint. The charges say Hamilton was off duty at the time, but heard the shots fired call and responded. He did not radio in, however.

The 23-year-old driver of the vehicle that was shot at was following another officer's instructions to back her car down 3rd Avenue – during which Hamilton drove his squad car up, stopping it in the middle of 3rd Avenue, the complaint says.

The woman's vehicle backed into Hamilton's squad, causing minor damage; airbags weren't deployed, the complaint says.

According to the attorney's office: "Officer Hamilton jumped out of his squad car and without giving any verbal commands, fired a shot at the BMW."

The bullet hit the rear driver's-side corner near the trunk, the charges say.

Officer 'had no business shooting his gun'

Officer Hamilton later stated that he had feared for his life and aimed at the driver, the attorney's office said.

"We know that police officers have a difficult job, and they often have to make decisions on the spur of the moment," Freeman said. "But in this case, Officer Hamilton – in those three seconds – had no business shooting his gun."

The six people inside the car at the time filed complaints days later against the officer who fired his weapon, the Star Tribune reported.

A Minneapolis Police Department spokesperson said in December that Hamilton had been relieved of his duties until the internal affairs investigation was complete. We've reached out to MPD for a comment, and to ask about Hamilton's status.

“I am concerned and disappointed that a Minneapolis Police officer has been accused of criminal conduct and we do not take this matter lightly," Minneapolis Police Chief Janee Harteau said in a statement. "We understand the community’s desire for transparency and will provide as much information as possible once state law allows us to do so.”

Freeman said there is video from the incident, but he would not go into detail.

A date for Hamilton's first court appearance hasn't been set, the attorney's office noted. Freeman said he believes the officer will turn himself in this week. Then dates will be arranged.

Minneapolis police said in December they take cases of an officer using deadly force “very seriously,” and noted that within two days of the incident, Police Chief Janeé Harteau met with the owner of the vehicle. They’ve also pledged to be transparent throughout the investigation.

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