Minneapolis police officer files whistleblower lawsuit against city

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A Minneapolis police officer filed a whistleblower lawsuit against the city Tuesday, claiming the city sabotaged his career after he questioned the way it handled an investigation.

That investigation, which the officer was part of, involved an August 2014 attempted robbery in north Minneapolis.

In November, a man was photographed standing next to Mayor Betsy Hodges. The two were accused of flashing "known gang signs" – an incident that became known as "pointergate." The story got a lot of attention, making national news, prompting spoofs on social media and jokes on late night television.

The lawsuit filed Tuesday on behalf of Sgt. Jesse Garcia III claims that, when the connection was made between the suspect and the man in the photo, the police department decided not to pursue charges against the man. Garcia objected to this decision, saying it was an obstruction of justice to prematurely close the case.

"As stated in the complaint, rather than backing up their officer ... certain officials at city hall chose political expediency over the law – and when our client bucked the process, they retaliated maliciously and illegally against him," Garcia's lawyer, Clayton Halunen, said in a news release announcing the lawsuit.

After Garcia, now 49 years old, objected to dropping the case, the department opened an internal affairs case on him, the lawsuit claims, and a few days later he found out he wouldn't be transferred to the Violent Offender Task Force like he thought. In December he was assigned to the Third Precinct's property crimes division – a position the lawsuit says has less responsibilities and prestige.

Garcia is seeking unspecified financial damages from the city for "malicious actions that harmed Garcia's career, reputation and emotional well-being," the release says.

The city has not commented on the lawsuit, which is common when litigation is pending, the Star Tribune reports.

The Minneapolis Police Department told FOX 9 the robbery case is under investigation. The Hennepin County Attorney's Office confirmed to the news station it previously declined to prosecute the case.

In a separate story, the Star Tribune profiled Garcia Monday, who recently revealed he was diagnosed with stage four stomach cancer. In a Facebook post cited by the paper, Garcia says he will "fight this sneaky disease."

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