Eagan, MN – Almost a year to the day after Isak Aden was killed by police during a July 2019 standoff, the negotiating officer who spoke with Aden as he was fatally shot aggressively pushed two ‘Justice for Isak’ protesters during a march on Somali Independence day. On the next day, the exact one-year anniversary of his death, Aden’s family filed a $20 million federal lawsuit against police agencies and officers responsible for the shooting death.
“The police are killing us and they’re using their system that’s in place for them to get away with our killings.“July 1, 2020 march participant
Isak Aden was a 23-year-old college student and entrepreneurial business owner when he was killed by two snipers and three other officers from a tactical unit. Responding to a disputed domestic disturbance call, nearly 100 officers from a slew of police departments (Bloomington, Burnsville, Eagan, and Edina) – including the South Metro SWAT unit – quickly surrounded Aden in a parking lot on July 2, 2019. Four hours later and an hour into negotiations and while on the phone with him, officers shot Aden with 11 bullets, killing him on the spot. All officers were exonerated of any criminal wrongdoing by the Dakota County Attorney’s Office in November 2019.
Aden had a handgun on the ground when the police initiated their violent action plan but there is no conclusive evidence proving that he aimed it at any of the officers who were standing behind armored vehicles.
A year after her brother’s death, Sumaya Aden led a march to the location where he was killed. She pointed to the wall of the building where she said bulletholes and her brother’s blood could still be seen. “The city has blood on it’s hands and there’s no way you can cover it up. There was a murder that took place right here in this spot. The murder of my brother.“
Sumaya said combining the march for her brother along with the celebration of Somali Independence Day was a way to “honor the ancestors” and the legacy of the dead “in a way that they would’ve loved, which is protesting and fighting against these injustices.” Watch some of Sumaya speaking at her brother’s site of death in the video below.
“Isak Abdirahman Aden was a Young, Black, Somali Male Who was Well-Loved and Respected in his Community, a Dedicated Employee, and Promising Student at the University of Minnesota.“Page 9 of Lawsuit filed on behalf of the Estate of Isak Aden, CASE 0:20-cv-01508
During the rally and march on July 1, 2020, some of Isak’s family, friends, classmates, and teachers spoke about how they remembered him.
While at the site of Aden’s death, his former classmate Kamia Muse recounted meeting and becoming friends with Isak in the 7th grade after she moved to Minnesota.
Muse said Aden helped comfort her and would speak to her in Somali, “which was greatly appreciated” as her English wasn’t so good at the time.
“He was truly a person who brought an immense amount of joy in every room that he walked in. He carried the brightest smile and the perfect joke to make someone’s day everywhere he went.“Kamia Muse on Isak Aden
Hear perspectives from participants in the march, as well as some of Muse’s speech in the video below.
In the lawsuit filed on behalf of Isak Aden exactly a year after his death, 23 defendants are named as violating Aden’s Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. They are listed in the complaint as follows:
“Lethal Force Defendants”
- Eagan Police Officer Jacob Peterson
- Bloomington Police Officer Matthew Ryan
- Bloomington Police Officer Daniel Nelson
- Bloomington Police Officer Adam Stier
- Bloomington Police Officer Anthony Kiehl
- City of Bloomington, Minnesota
- City of Burnsville, Minnesota
- City of Eagan, Minnesota
- City of Edina, Minnesota
- Eagan Chief of Police Roger New
- Eagan Police Lieutenant Andrew Speakman
- Bloomington Police Sergeant Corey Cardenas
- Burnsville Police Sergeant Maksim Yakovlev
“Defendants John and Jane Does 1-10”
- Unknown officers acting under the “color of law.“
Two of the “lethal force defendants” – Bloomington Police Officer Anthony Kiehl and Eagan’s Jacob Peterson – have killed before as police officers. Kiehl, one of the snipers who shot Aden, killed 24-year-old Quincy Reindl in Bloomington, MN, in 2015. Peterson killed 26-year-old Zachary Premo in Duluth, MN, in 2013.
Burnsville Police Sergeant Maksim Yakovlev, one of the “supervising defendants” has also killed before and was awarded Burnsville’s 2016 Officer of the Year award. Before being named Officer of the Year, Yakovlev shot Map Kong in the back numerous times, killing him, as Kong ran away from officers while holding a knife.
Officer Adam Stier was awarded Officer of the Year shortly before killing. Stier was one of the snipers on the roof who shot Aden, he was given the 2019 Officer of the Year award for the Bloomington Police Department. [paragraph correction details at bottom]
“Putting officers who have a previous past of being involved in fatal shootings on the frontline of a situation that sensitive, tells you what kind of mindset they had going into this.”Sumaya Aden, July 16, 2019
Two weeks after Aden was killed in 2019, a large crowd overtook Eagan’s City Council meeting, using the space to express outrage over Isak’s death. In an exclusive interview after the action, two of his siblings shared with Unicorn Riot some stories of their beloved older brother and what happened the night he was killed.
Upon reviewing all the documents, data, and audio/video recordings released after the clearing of the officers involved, the Aden family’s lawsuit depicts a scene quite different than was written in the police reports and Dakota County’s Memorandum Regarding the Death of lsak Abdirahman Aden BCA File No. 2019-554.
The lawsuit claims the initial police response during the night Aden was killed was “militarized” and “aggressive” and contained Aden to a “vacant, industrial parking lot” eliminating “any risk to the public.“
Along with the legion of officers on the scene, at least four snipers were deployed along with three K-9 units, an MRAP (Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected) vehicle, two Bearcat Armored Tactical Vehicles, and an additional armored vehicle.
Aden sat on the curb at 6:44 p.m. and remained seated and calm, never provoking or threatening any of the officers, until 10:37 p.m. when the “tactical plan” that killed Aden was carried out.
For nearly three hours, police officers yelled demands from their inner perimeter at while they couldn’t hear his responses over the sounds of their vehicle’s engines and a nearby airport. It wasn’t until around 9:22 p.m. that officers delivered a phone to Aden to speak directly to him, allowing for about an hour and fifteen minutes of two-way negotiation before shooting and killing him.
Central to the commands of the negotiators was the gun that Aden had in his possession. Aden followed commands to put the handgun on the ground around 8:56 p.m. and didn’t touch it until police attacked him.
When the police initiated their deadly offensive maneuvers, Aden sat about about 18 inches from the gun and was speaking on the phone with the primary negotiator, Eagan Officer Joseph Moseng. They first shot at least three flashbang grenades and six less-lethal munition rounds at Aden in a matter of a couple seconds. Aden then appeared to attempt to run to his right and was immediately shot and killed.
Video of the incident was released by Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom in November 2019 after his office deemed Aden’s killing “legally justified.” The video released by Backstrom was recorded from a police cruiser and is one minute and nineteen seconds long. It shows the incident in normal speed with a large circular blur over Aden as he is shot. At the 23 second mark, the state provides a slow motion zoomed in shot which also features a blur over Aden and does not seem to show Aden point towards officers.
“At the Law Enforcement Defendants’ request, Mr. Aden placed the handgun on the ground at approximately 8:56 p.m., where it would remain untouched until the Law Enforcement Defendants needlessly placed the lives of Mr. Aden and their officers at risk by launching an unnecessary, unjustified, and ill-conceived assault on Mr. Aden at 10:37 p.m. that, seconds later, would inevitably result in his death.“Page 21 of Lawsuit filed on behalf of the Estate of Isak Aden, CASE 0:20-cv-01508
The lawsuit states that Aden’s only request was to speak with his ex-girlfriend, who had initially called 911, and have her confirm to the police that he hadn’t threatened her with the handgun.
According to the lawsuit, negotiations between Officer Moseng and Aden allowed for “immediate, significant, and positive results” and the assault plans developed and authorized by defendants Roger New, Andrew Speakman, Corey Cardenas, and Maksim Yakovlev constituted “extreme and unjustifiable violence.“
A main reason for this violent response as opposed to a more peaceful resolution, according to the lawsuit, was that the police officers “ignored Mr. Aden’s compliance, seeing only a threatening young, Black, Somali male that could be dealt with by force.“
Eagan’s Police Chief Roger New, one of three Black police chiefs in Minnesota, made the curious claim that Aden ‘looked at them with deadly force’ and said his officers “showed a great deal of restraint” when interviewed by Minnesota’s Bureau of Criminal Apprehensive during their investigation of Aden’s killing. New claimed he developed that bias from “tactical” and “law enforcement training.“
Saying someone’s ‘look’ is so threatening that one had to ‘defend themselves’ against such a perceived threat is a centuries-old trope rooted in racism. Subjective police logic alleging an ominous look in someone’s eyes has been utilized in numerous recent cases of police killings across the USA, leading to the exoneration of the officers. These sorts of dubious claims were part of the strategy to clear officers in the Twin Cities responsible for the deaths of Brian Quinones and Jamar Clark, among others.
Officers’ use of deadly force against Isak Aden “was contrary to the Law Enforcement Defendants’ conduct in other, similar situations with individuals who were not Black and Somali“, says the family’s lawsuit. There are numerous instances of standoffs ending without violence. Just a year before Aden was killed, Yakovlev’s Burnsville Police peacefully ended a similar 12-hour-standoff.
One of the leading causes of deaths for Black men in the USA is being killed by police, with nearly one in every 1,000 dying at the hands of a cop.
The realities of racial bias being instilled during police training started to gain more public attention in the latter part of the 2010s. One of the more infamous trainings for officers is the fear based Bulletproof Warrior trainings taught by so-called ‘Killology’ creator Dave Grossman. Former St. Anthony, MN officer Jeronimo Yanez, who killed Philando Castile in 2016, had gone to Bulletproof trainings. In 2018, officers across the Twin Cities cancelled their registrations to ‘Bulletproof’ trainings amidst growing public scrutiny into Grossman’s debunked pseudoscientific claims.
According to the Aden family’s lawsuit, Max Yakovlev, the “supervising defendant” who previously killed Map Kong and helped concoct the tactical plan to kill Aden, attended Grossman’s two-day course “Bulletproof Mind: Mental Preparation for Combat.”
Because of this type of training, the lawsuit says, the “law enforcement defendants approached Mr. Aden with a combat mentality and equipped with combat-grade equipment, viewed him inherently as a threat despite his compliant, non-threatening conduct” and preferred violence over engaging in “good faith negotiations.“
The Police Executive Research Forum (PERF), International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), and the International Association of Directors of Law Enforcement Standards and Training (IADLEST) have all condemned the ‘Bulletproof’ training seminars.
“Our side never gets heard. Instead we have to continue to use every outlet that we can to fight these narratives … Im really grateful to you guys for taking my word. For believing surviving families.“Sumaya Aden, Isak’s sister
After shooting Aden, officers let him bleed out as he lie on the ground and didn’t approach him to render medical aid for six minutes. According to the lawsuit, “it took roughly ten minutes to transport Mr. Aden to a nearby ambulance.“
“The assault forced Mr. Aden to move towards the gun and the law enforcement defendants shot him even though he reacted predictably and despite posing no immediate threat when shot or for hours beforehand.“Page 50 of Lawsuit filed on behalf of the Estate of Isak Aden, CASE 0:20-cv-01508
The one year remembrance of Isak and Somali Independence Day march in Eagan was hosted by a coalition of local groups. Attendees were invited to commemorate Isak by wearing the same colors he had on when he was killed. When he died at the hands of Eagan, Bloomington, Edina, and Burnsville police officers, Isak Aden was wearing an orange shirt and grey sweatpants.
Marchers gathered at Eagan’s high-end outlet mall and marched to where Aden was killed, demanding the investigation into his death be re-opened and that his killers be fired and prosecuted for murder by an independent prosecutor.
As the march went back down Highway 13 from the site of Aden’s killing, the crowd then confronted two police officers standing outside of their vehicle.
In an unexpected twist, Eagan Police officer Joseph Moseng, who was the last to speak to Aden and was on the phone with him when the police killed him, was deployed to police the march and aggressively pushed two of the ‘Justice for Isak’ protesters, angering the crowd. After several tense moments, the crowd dispersed, leaving protest signs on the windshield of the police cruiser.
Multiple SWAT units and a bevy of officers decked out in riot gear also responded to the march.
Both of Aden’s parents were previously been killed in Somalia before he came to the USA in 2006. Isak was a father figure to his younger siblings, whose lives are now forever altered.
“He was the voice of reason and the glue that held the family together. Nothing bothered him and it was always hard to piss him off. He was always very problem-solution oriented and really took care of us with anything we needed on top his stuff.”Sumaya Aden, Isak’s sister
The Aden family says they are still hopeful for accountability and justice in Isak’s case and are glad their lawsuit was filed. Read the full lawsuit document below:Isak-Aden-Lawsuit-July-2-2020
[Correction on additional paragraph 12:25 a.m. Central Dec. 4, 2020] Officer Adam Stier was awarded Officer of the Year shortly before killing. Stier was one of the snipers on the roof who shot Aden, he was given the 2019 Officer of the Year award for the Bloomington Police Department.
Unicorn Riot's Isak Aden Coverage:
- Isak Aden, One Year Later: A Life Stolen by Police - Dec 3, 2020
- Mall of America Prohibits Families of Police Killings Over Planned Black Friday Protest - Nov 29, 2019
- Isak Aden’s Shooting by Police After Standoff Deemed “Justified” - Nov. 16, 2019
- Protest Shuts Down Highway, Marches Through Eagan’s High-End Outlet Mall - July 29, 2019
- Isak Aden: Another Black Life Stolen by Police - July 22, 2019