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St. Louis Park man punched by off-duty cop gets $125,000

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The Star Tribune reports that a jury has awarded a St. Louis Park man $125,000, after he accused an off-duty Minneapolis police officer of punching him and knocking him unconscious after an argument in a Minneapolis bar.

Jeremy Axel spent a night in the hospital after the Nov. 4, 2011 altercation with officer Michael Griffin, a decorated seven-year police veteran recently honored for his work as one of the first officers to arrive on the scene after the Accent Signage workplace shooting, the Star Tribune reports.

The jury in the federal lawsuit dismissed two other claims Axel filed against Griffin and another officer, the newspaper reports.

Axel alleged that he and his friends got into an argument with Griffin and his group at the Loop Bar and Restaurant, and that he had left when Griffin – dressed in plain clothes and not identifying himself as an officer – attacked a friend of Axel's. Axel said that when he went to check on his friend, Griffin punched him, knocking him out.

The Minneapolis police union did not immediately respond for comment, the Star Tribune reports. A police department internal affairs investigation remains open in the case, the newspaper says.

Several other cases of off-duty officers involved in scuffles have made recent headlines. Among the most high-profile cases was that of former Minneapolis Police Sgt. David Clifford, who was sentenced last summer to three years and seven months after he threw a punch and knocked out a patron at an Andover bar.

Last month, two Minneapolis officers were fired after a June 29 incident in Green Bay, Wisconsin, in which the off-duty officers got into a scuffle with several men and then used racist language as they argued with local police officers.

In related news, the Minneapolis Police Department is defending itself against 61 lawsuits claiming on-duty officers used excessive force that led to injuries, the Star Tribune reported last summer. Of those, 53 were filed from 2011 to 2013. That compared to 19 pending cases in St. Paul, the newspaper reported.

Minneapolis city lawyers say the number of lawsuits is not extraordinary.

Last month, in an effort to reduce complaints of misconduct and police brutality, the Minneapolis City Council approved $400,000 to outfit two-thirds of the city’s police force with body cameras.

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