No charges for false call that led police to detain teens in park

Published 10:30 pm Thursday, July 26, 2018

MINNEAPOLIS — No charges will be filed at this time for a false 911 call that led Minneapolis Park Police to detain four black teenage boys earlier this month, city officials said.

A female caller reported July 10 that teens with knives and possibly a gun were assaulting a man at Minnehaha Regional Park. Park Police responded, and one officer drew a gun. Four teens, ages 13 to 16, were handcuffed but no weapons were found.

Video of the boys’ detainment drew outrage on social media. Three of the boys later said they feared for their lives.

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Park Police Chief Jason Ohotto said at the time that the information reported in the 911 call was unfounded.

City Attorney Susan Segal said in a Wednesday email to Minnesota Public Radio that no charges will be brought.

“We declined to charge the named suspect with false reporting due to insufficient evidence to prove each element beyond a reasonable doubt,” she said, adding police couldn’t prove the identity of the caller, who only used one name when she phoned 911.

In addition, the phone is registered to a woman with a different name, and the potential suspect is five to six years older than the description of the caller. And, under state statute, prosecutors have to show that the caller knowingly made a false statement.

“The audiotape of the 911 call shows that the caller stated ‘there’s another guy with a backpack on, he keeps saying there’s a gun in his backpack;’ while no gun was recovered at the scene, this is not dispositive of whether the statement was made to the 911 caller and whether she ‘knew’ it was false,” Segal’s statement said.

Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board Superintendent Mary Merrill told the city’s Public Safety and Emergency Management Committee on Thursday that officials have met with the families and apologized for the trauma their children experienced. She said an outside firm is conducting an investigation to determine if the officers followed Park Police policies, and officials are determining how to go about releasing body camera footage from the video.

“We believe reporting false information puts people’s lives in danger, and any person reporting false information should be held accountable,” she said.