Rally in Minnesota this Weekend To Demand Justice in Murder of Fong Lee

Fong Lee, 19, was brutally shot multiple times — including 5 times while he lay on the ground — and killed by Minnesota cops in July 2006. A jury failed to find the officer who killed him guilty of excessive force. Now, his family is taking his case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

(H/T: Slant Eye for the Round Eye)

The justice system in this country has one simple, straightforward task: to uphold civic order and protect the civil rights of American citizens. We believe in this country’s justice system; we believe that when we are wronged, the courts are set up to determine the truth and convict the guilty.

And then, you come across a story that shakes that belief to its core.

Back in July 2006, Fong Lee, a 19-year-old Hmong-American living in Minnesota, was riding bikes with his friends when he was chased down and brutally shot several times — five of those bullets shot at close range while he was lying bleeding on the ground — by Jason Andersen.

Jason Andersen is not a drug dealer. He is not a gang member. Jason Andersen is a Minneapolis police officer.

Slant Eye for the Round Eye re-posts a press release that details the Lee family’s contention that Lee was murdered by Jason Anderson in an act of cold-blooded police brutality, and than how his murder was covered up.

Andersen stated he was justified in the killing, claiming that Lee pointed a gun at him. He was cleared by the MPD’s internal investigation even though neighborhood eyewitnesses were not interviewed, many of whom contradicted the police officers’ version of events in community press reports.

In 2009 the family of Fong Lee brought a wrongful death lawsuit again the City of Minneapolis and Jason Andersen, citing surveillance cameras that showed Fong Lee did not have a gun and evidence that demonstrated that the gun found at the scene had been in police custody, suggesting that the gun had been planted.

Jason Andersen was first in the media’s eye with his shooting death of Fong Lee but he has remained a contentious member of the Minneapolis police force. In September 2009 Police Chief Tim Dolan fired Andersen for violating the department’s ethics policy because of a dropped domestic assault charge. A state arbitrator returned Andersen to the force after the police union grieved the firing. Andersen is currently being indicted on federal charges for allegedly abusing a black teenager while part of the notorious and now-defunct Metro Gang Strike Force. On September 22, 2010 he was fired for a second time for violating the department’s code on “truthfulness” about this incident in which he allegedly kicked the teen in the head.

In the aftermath of Fong Lee’s death, the Lee family took his case to court alleging racial bias and excessive police force resulting in the wrongful death of Lee. The City of Minneapolis called just four witnesses — one of them Andersen himself, and another Andersen’s partner — as they made their argument that Lee’s shooting was justified. However, an all-white jury failed to find Jason Andersen guilty of using excessive force. Adding insult to injury, the Lee family was not even invited to be present when the verdict was handed down.

Slant Eye has a good round-up of the facts of the case:

  • Asian American youth shot eight times, five times after he was already on the ground.
  • The gun that police say was pointed at them (later retracted in a statement from last year), [and which they contend] was Fong Lee’s [may have been already been confiscated by police two years earlier.] [Further], the gun also had “no fingerprints, smudge marks, or any other evidence linking it to Fong Lee“.
  • It wasn’t a jury that had at least some Asian Americans or other POC on it who decided that excessive force wasn’t used. It was an all-white jury.
  • The police officer in question has a history of abuse on the job.

This week, the Lee family is announcing that they are appealing the court’s decision all the way to the Supreme Court, and they are looking for your help in demanding justice. They are calling for a rally and press conference to take place this Saturday, October 2ndto formally announce their filing for a writ of certiorariwith the Supreme Court of the United States.

Protesters at an earlier rally for Fong Lee

Here’s the skinny, including details on how you can attend:

MEDIA ADVISORY FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA SEPTEMBER 28, 2010

PRESS CONFERENCE AND RALLY: FAMILY OF SLAIN TEEN FONG LEE APPEALING CASE TO SUPREME COURT

CONTACT:

Janelle Yang, 952-201-0383
Justice for Fong Lee Committee, 612-424-1166
justiceforfonglee@gmail.com

WHAT: Press Conference and Rally to announce the Lee family’s decision to appeal their wrongful death suit against Jason Andersen and the Minneapolis Police Department to the Supreme Court. The Lee family has retained the law firm Hilliard, Muñoz, Gonzales (http://hmglawfirm.com/) in the shooting death of their teenage son Fong Lee by Minneapolis police officer Jason Andersen, who was recently fired because of a federal indictment in another brutality charge.

WHEN: Saturday, October 2, 2:00 p.m.

WHERE: Cityview Elementary School, where Fong Lee was killed.
3350 North 4th Street
Minneapolis, MN 55412

WHO: This press conference is being organized by the Justice for Fong Lee Committee and the family of Fong Lee. Family members and Janelle Yang, the legal contact for the family, will be making statements about the appeal. Community organizations and leaders will also be making statements of support.

WHY: The family and community were shocked and angered by the 2009 verdict in their wrongful death suit as well as the district court’s recent denial for an appeal. They view these decisions as part of a growing pattern of police misconduct and lack of accountability in the Twin Cities. Under new representation from the firm Hilliard, Muñoz, Gonzales, the Lee family is appealing their wrongful death suit to the Supreme Court.

Statement from the attorney:

“Amidst the recent news of Minneapolis Police Officer Jason Andersen being fired for the second time in his career for lying about events when he was accused of kicking a teenager in the head while a member of the Gang Strike Force, the family of another of Andersen’s nineteenyear-old victims, Fong Lee, is petitioning for a writ of certiorari to the Supreme Court of the United States to overturn the Eighth Circuit Court’s recent decision refusing to award Fong Lee’s family damages after he was shot 8 times by the officer. There are a number of issues in the case that warrant Supreme Court review and perhaps we can bring a rogue officer to justice.”

We can’t really know for sure the detailed circumstances surrounding Fong Lee’s death — and that is precisely the miscarriage of justice that has occurred in this case. Witnesses were not appropriately interviewed. Video tape footage of the incident were not adequately considered. Forensic evidence could not be found or presented that otherwise would be expected to tie the gun to Fong Lee — if the gun was his.

I don’t know if anti-Asian racial bias played a role in Andersen’s killing of Fong Lee. What I do know is that a young Asian American boy is dead, and that the cop who killed him has an ongoing history of racialized abuse of his authority. We expect the justice system to sort out the facts of this case and figure out whether or not Lee’s death was wrongful or not — yet, for nearly five years, the justice system in Minnesota has failed to even reasonably consider the facts of the case, let alone bring repercussions against Fong Lee’s killer or quell any uncertainty over the circumstances of his death.

Perhaps the Supreme Court can do better. Justice — even if that just means a fair opportunity to advocate and be heard on behalf of their son — is what Fong Lee’s family deserves.

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