Grieving families of loved ones murdered by Twin Cities police share the incessant “psychological terrorism” they’ve experienced at the hands of on and off duty officers in various departments across the metro, and want their stories to be made public.
Findings in the recent report released by the Minnesota Department of Human Rights (MDHR) confirm allegations from everyday people in Minneapolis of systematic police brutality, particularly against Black community members. Additionally, the report implicated the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) in sweeping human rights violations against ordinary Black individuals, Black organizations, and activists, including race based discrimination, harassment, and spying.
Although the focus of the report was on the city of Minneapolis, recent interviews we’ve conducted with families whose loved ones were killed at the hands of law enforcement demonstrate that the problem is pervasive across departments around the metro.
“If we find what some police do on camera, in uniform, to be violent and appalling, think of the atrocities they get away with when no one is watching, when they’re out of uniform, behind anonymous phone calls, especially now that their systematic abuse is being exposed and scrutinized”Angel Smith-El – Community organizer with the grassroots organization Minneapolis Community Control of the Police
Toshira Garraway, founder of the advocacy group Families Supporting Families Against Police Violence, frequently speaks publicly about the coverup by Saint Paul Police who she says killed her fiance, Justin Teigen in 2009, and the ongoing harassment she experiences. In a recent interview, she said:
“Cops have followed me for years, to the point I don’t want to drive anymore. Then I had to move out of Saint Paul, a place where I grew up my whole life. And now they started messing with my phone, deleting conversations and making it so I couldn’t contact people or live stream.
Then Maplewood police terrorized my son while walking home from McDonalds, handcuffed him, made the handcuffs tighter when he told officers they were hurting him. They put him in the back of a cop car and held him for 45 minutes, illegally without reason. And now I’m getting death threats. They’re threatening me and my family’s lives!”Toshira Garraway, founder of Families Supporting Families Against Police Violence
Garraway’s family isn’t the only family impacted by police murder facing retribution from law enforcement. Tanya Gile, mother of 14-year-old Marcoz Paramo who was killed by Ramsey County Sheriffs in a police chase, stated, “They are doing their best to make mine and my families’ lives a living hell. That’s why some families don’t speak out about the harassment,” she said.
“They are afraid of what the police are capable of. They came for my kids and began dehumanizing them to the community … calling them career criminals and future murderers, telling them that their family is trash. After killing my son, they have harassed his friends endlessly. Police even went to their homecoming game and said, ‘After what happened to Marcos, I bet you don’t run from police now.”’Tanya Gile
Like Toshira, Tanya said she is also being pushed out of her home by police. “After I started speaking out publicly and exposing their lies, I was told my lease won’t be renewed. I thought, ‘I just lost my son, and now they’re not going to renew my lease?’
“A week after they told me I only had a month to move, I started to get violations in the mail. The first violation stated I had excessive damage to my unit, but I had nothing wrong with my unit” she said. “I even called the Section 8 inspector who had come a week prior and put on record that there was no excessive damage to my unit. The other violation stated I had previous tenants living in my unit, which was also not the case.”
Gile insisted that “the violations were totally fabricated. That Monday when I went to the office to speak to Ethan Allen, the property manager, to challenge the violations, they finally admitted that they were forcing me out due to the police.” Gile said, “That’s when I knew I needed legal representation.”
Garraway and Gile are each being represented by attorney Jeff Storms. Last month, Storms notified both mothers that his law office was receiving death threats on their behalf, which is not uncommon for those seeking answers and accountability from authorities who cover up for murderous police.
One threat intended for Garraway sent to the law office using the pseudonym “John Gacy” (after the former serial killer) from the email account [email protected], read, “Those kids In maplewood are gonna get hurt just sit and watch and it’s nobody’s fault! These bitches wanna cry wolf! I’ll eat thAt wolf bitch.” Garraway said at the time she hadn’t made public that she was working with attorney Storms, stating, “Only the police or the courts would have had that information.”
Both women also spoke about how cops at various times have removed incriminating photos they had of the police on their cell phones. Tanya Gile went door-to-door where her son was killed to speak to the neighbors about what they witnessed “but the police had already visited their homes and cleared video evidence of the accident from their phones,” she said. “I refuse to stop being my son’s voice. I will continue to let the public know what they’ve done. I already live in hell,” the grieving mother said. “They can do whatever to me because at the end of the day, God sees it all.” She continued, “God knows already the karma coming to all those law enforcement officers who think they’re invincible.”
Other impacted families who have lost loved ones at the hands of Minnesota law enforcement also report being followed, having their phones disabled or content deleted, their income or housing affected, and members of their family harassed.
Donald Williams, the grandfather of Brian Quinones who was unarmed when he was killed by Richfield and Edina police in 2019 as he ran away from them, says he continues to get stalked in front of his home by police. “They follow Ashley [the widow of Brian] and her son constantly. Ashley was pulled over 13 times in the first 6 months after Brian was killed,” he disclosed. The harassment by Richfield Police is “to the point where Ashley has asked me to back off sometimes for my own safety. And sometimes I do.” But Williams said he is more concerned about Ashley and [my great-grandson’s] safety than his own.
“Following a 13 year old around is bullshit! Making yourself a continued presence in his life after you murdered his father is immoral and unethical.”Donald Williams
Williams shared a story of a time they were at a protest in front of outgoing Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman’s house where there was a large police presence. The grandfather went to ask a Hennepin County deputy, who was sitting inside his squad car monitoring the protest, a question. Williams said, “I walked up and went to casually introduce myself before asking the question and he said to me, ‘We know exactly who you are!’ Now I’m not easily intimidated,” Williams stated, “but what he said and the way he said it got my attention. That’s the kind of crap they do. They’re not overt in-your-face threats, they just track you and try to intimidate you.”
“It doesn’t happen to us much anymore because they were confronted in front of Ashley’s house one night. That, and it’s been almost 3 years now. But Brian Quinones deserves more than that! As do all our families,” said Donald Williams, Brian’s grandfather.
According to the families, another tactic of terror used across agencies is to destroy memorial sites that grieving loved ones have created, such as the one for Brian Quinones along 77th street E. near Chicago Ave., and the one for Leneal Frazier, who was killed recklessly in a car crash by MPD officer Brian Cummings, at the intersection of 41st Ave and Lyndale Ave N.
Leneal Frazier is the uncle of Darnella Frazier who filmed the murder of George Floyd and testified against Derek Chauvin during the murder trial. Considering how Leneal’s life was taken, “it isn’t lost on anyone in the community just how terrorizing the Minneapolis police have been this last year driving down the street at high speeds, waving and laughing raucously out the window when the family gathers at the site,” said organizer Angel Smith-El.
Minneapolis police retribution gained national attention during jury selection at the murder trial of Derek Chauvin, who murdered George Floyd in 2020, when a prospective juror said that Minneapolis police drove around the neighborhood blasting the song “Another One Bites the Dust” the day after a shooting. People believe the juror was unfairly dismissed from serving in the trial for being honest and sharing his story about police vengeance.
Retribution at the hands of MPD is well documented even by former Minneapolis cops who have spoken out about retaliation they’ve faced after reporting brutality by colleagues, according to the MDHR report. “We know cops retaliate against other cops they deem ‘snitches’. Just imagine what they do to people who accuse them of murder,” said Smith-El. Adding, “We are calling for an immediate investigation into the harassment of our impacted and grieving families.”
These are all reasons why activists in Minneapolis are fighting for a Civilian Police Accountability Commission (CPAC) that will redistribute power from the mayor and Police Federation to the community. According to the proposal, democratically elected members of CPAC would have the power to investigate the harassment of whistle-blowers and families who are demanding justice for their murdered loved ones. CPAC would also empower elected officials to analyze patterns in policing practices and support the discipline process of officers involved in harming the community.
Organizers with Twin Cities Coalition for Justice for Jamar and Minneapolis Community Control of the Police are working via a Citizens’ Petition to get CPAC on the Minneapolis city ballot as quickly as possible. They collected nearly half of the 13,000 signatures needed to have the CPAC proposal in the form of a charter amendment appear on a future ballot.
Toshira Garraway is helping these groups collect signatures for the CPAC petition.
“While we as a community are concerned with the physical harm these police systems have inflicted on us, we must also be concerned by the psychological terrorism, the more invisible violence, that perpetually threatens our kids and grieving families,” Garraway said. Adding, “We will never stop being the voice for our loved ones who can no longer speak for themselves.”
Karissa Stotts is an educator, youth worker, and abolitionist organizing with TCC4J towards community control of the police in Minneapolis. She works alongside families who have been impacted by police violence and has witnessed firsthand some of the harassment of the Leneal Frazier family and Toshira Garraway.
Marjaan Sirdar is a South Minneapolis based freelance writer. He is the host of the People Power Podcast and author of the investigative series, 21st Century Jim Crow in the North Star City: How Target Corp., the City of Minneapolis, and Hennepin County, Created a Domestic Spy Program That Rolled Back Civil Rights On its Black Population, published by Unicorn Riot.
Akičita Šuŋka-Wakaŋ Ska and Niko Georgiades of Unicorn Riot contributed to this report.
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