Found Dead Following Police Encounter, Justin Teigen Remembered

A newly released Unicorn Riot video highlights the final moments of 24-year-old Justin Teigen’s life and features an interview with one of Teigen’s best friends who was perhaps the last person to see him alive. In 2009, Teigen, a father of one, was found dead in a suburban recycling center days after running from Saint Paul Police (SPPD) officers. The nearly 14-minute video spotlights Teigen’s fiancé Toshira Garraway, and Teigen’s friend, who wished to be unnamed. Teigen’s friend takes us through Justin’s last day and the last moments that he was seen alive.

The video also contains footage furnished by non-profit Communities United Against Police Brutality (CUAPB) from nearby surveillance cameras along with images from SPPD, the BCA, and Teigen’s autopsy.

With settings from inside Garraway’s living room to the streets of Saint Paul, to the Say Their Names cemetery at George Floyd Square and to visiting the recycling center where Teigen was found for the first time, Garraway takes us through the journey of the pain and the questions that she’s had to deal with since August 2009. She speaks about SPPD misleading her after the incident. She said they withheld evidence that could’ve showed they weren’t involved, which has led to her, Teigen’s family, friends and advocates believing that it was the police that had “beat” Justin to death and “dumped his body in the trash.”

Through the pain, Garraway speaks about raising her son without his father, helping others and what motivated her to create the non-profit support group, Families Supporting Families Against Police Violence. Watch the video and see transcript below.

CUAPB’s Reinvestigation Workgroup published a 40-page “analysis of the killing of Justin Anthony Teigen” in May 2022 (pdf). See their report in full, which includes links to reports, images, and surveillance videos:


View past Unicorn Riot coverage of Justin Teigen:

Justin Teigen Matters: Ten Years Later [Aug. 2019]

Protest Marks 11th Anniversary of Justin Teigen’s Death After Police Encounter [Aug. 2020]

From Pain to Power: Twelve Years After Justin Teigen [Aug. 2021]

Transcript of the Video

Video and interviews contributed by D.Art Films

[Anonymous friend] When the police came to the window, he looked in and he pulled his gun out and he put his gun on to the window like this and all of us freaked out in the car.

[Toshira Garraway] So August 19, 2009, Justin was pulled over by the Saint Paul Police. We got a lot of different stories, but at the end of the story, Justin ends up dead in a dumpster. He was found out in Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota, which is a suburb.

Originally when they came and told us what happened, they did not tell us that he had an encounter with the police. They said that Justin was in a car accident and that he was missing from the scene of the accident. So we didn’t know anything about the fact that he even got pulled over.

[Anonymous friend] I’m one of Justin’s best friends. Like his brother. You know, we did everything together, I was the last person with him. I was the last person to look him in the eyes and see the fear in his eyes before he took off running.

It was a good day. We played basketball in the morning. And then we up going to a club. It’s shut down now, but the club name was Arnellia’s. We had a good time. We kicked it. After that, we were supposed to go home because both of our women called and said, come on home. We just made pit stop the food place and we was just happy and having fun and we got ready to leave we got into the car and my brother hit a couple of donuts in the car.

While he was driving, the police got behind us and everybody in the car was scared. So he pulled over. He stopped. And when the police came to the window, he looked in and pulled his gun out and he put his gun on to the window like this. And all of us freaked out in the car. And Justin hit it. He just put the car in drive and took off. The police got back in their car and was chasing us and before we could even get anywhere, we, he lost control of the wheel. He hit the curb, lost control, and we end up smacking into the pillar in the midway.

[Toshira] So this is where Justin was last seen alive here in the Midway Shopping Center in Saint Paul of these pillars. One of these pillars is the last place where there was an accident and where he was seen.

[Friend] We all were scared, but I didn’t have a seatbelt on, so I was injured very bad. I had some sternum problems and I was bleeding from the head. I couldn’t hear nothing. I couldn’t feel my body, but I could see everything. And I was looking at him and he looked at me and he looked me right in my eyes. It’s like he wanted to say something, but he couldn’t talk. But he was like normal, you know what I’m saying? And like it was like he wasn’t hurt and nothing. And he took off running.

I watched him get out of the car and take off running. He ran right across me, across the building. But we had that, at least 10-second stare-off like, he just looked at me I looked at him and it was like the last time I was gonna see him, you know what I’m saying? He gave me that look like, this might be the end. And I didn’t have no strength in my body. I was hurt. I couldn’t grab him to save him. I would have just took the charge with him. I said, whatever we got, It’s not worth your life, you know what I’m saying. If I had to the strength to grab him, I would’ve grabbed him. We’d probably, he’d probably be here today, right now.

You know, we had some illegal things on us and we was scared so, you know, just like knowing people, he was hiding stuff. And the police just pulled a gun out on the window.

They had a vendetta with him I know they did. They used to pull us over and make us walk. And his family was so supportive like, in 30 minutes we’d be right back getting his car out. No problem. And you know, they just didn’t like that.

[Toshira] It’s a racial thing. It’s a racial thing here in the state of Minnesota. Justin drove a really nice car. His stepfather, who was an all white man, would drive the exact same vehicle in the exact same area in Saint Paul and would never get pulled over. And during that time, they dismantled the Saint Paul Police Department Gang task unit because they were taking people’s cars. They were taking people’s money. I just believe that they don’t feel that Black men deserve to have nice things because he was getting pulled over all the time. He had put rims on his car, just got to painted.

Seven days before Justin was murdered, they pulled him over, they checked this car, didn’t find anything. They checked him, didn’t find anything. They still took him to jail, told him that they were going to take his car and he was going to watch them drive it around and towed his car. But his mom got an attorney and got the car out, got him out of jail because they had no liable cause.

He told me when he came home, he said they were so mad. They looked so mad when they seen me get out. We went and got his car out of the impound lot and seven days later, Justin got pulled over and ended up dead in a dumpster.

[Speaker at rally, Toussaint Morrison] And Justin’s story, Justin’s life, Justin’s body was absolutely thrown away because he ran from the cops. I don’t know anybody. I don’t know a singular Black male or a man with melanin or a body with melanin here that has never thought about running from the cops. The poetic disgust is that they say they’re here to protect us. They say they’re here to serve with compassion. And when you look at who they’re here to serve, white folks you need to look deep into the mirror and ask yourself, Why are they here to protect me? Why are they here to protect my story? Why are they here to protect my children? How come when something happens to me, it makes the headlines? But when something happened to Justin Teigen, it fell into oblivion. And as a Black male, you understand what Justin felt like right before he died. You understand what Justin saw right before he died. You don’t have to know Justin’s story to feel that in your heart as a Black male, you’ve already felt it. We’ve already felt it. We are living it right now. Every single day of our lives.

[Toshira] No investigation was done. That’s when they would not comply with our family. We were trying to watch the video. And they say all these things and all these stories, how Justin jumped in a dumpster and died on his own. Well, if that was the case as a grieving family, all we wanted to do was we wanted to see that because we just wanted the truth as a normal hurting family. We just wanted answers of what really happened to him.

When they kill our loved ones, it spills over to the rest of the family. You know, it doesn’t just stop there. But this has been very traumatizing for the entire family. My son struggles right now to this day because of the death of his father. So it’s not easy at all, We had a family together. We were engaged to be married. We were looking for a home together. You know what I mean? Justin was the oldest of five kids, and so he had little brothers and sisters that would be outside playing in the yard, and the police would just sit out there and just watch for hours. And so his sister, his younger sister, who really, she had a really close bond with big Justin. And so she would cry all the time about the fact that her brother died. She didn’t take his death too well. She ended up taking some pills and she went to sleep and she never woke up.

Justin’s mother was distraught because, of course, any mother would be distraught, any human being would be distraught at the fact that their child was found dead in the trash. And then the way that she was treated by the Saint Paul police, they treated her very, very bad because she was trying to seek answers. She was trying to find out exactly what happened because their story was not adding up and it wasn’t making sense. If they claimed that he died from the injuries from a car accident, she just wanted to see that. She wanted to see the video and they were refusing to do that. They were just refusing her and denying her so many things. And it became very discouraging for her.

The camera over there and the camera over in that area caught the footage of Justin running along this area And a few hours later, Justin is found skull cracked in half, dog bites, wrist broken, that’s how he’s found out in Allied Waste Management in Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota. [Editor’s Note: Allied Waste Management was actually bought by Republic before the incident.]

So this is the Allied Waste Management where Justin’s body was found this is where his body came through on the flatbed with the rest of the recycling material. I don’t want to guess. I don’t want to speculate. I just want to know. I just want to know.

[Friend] I think about him all the time. And you know, this, it put a lot of pressure on me because I was the last person to see him and be with him. You know, cause everybody want to ask me questions. You know what I’m saying, like the family and you know, and back then it was really, really hard. Because I was the last person with him everybody wanted to know. He was really a good person, man, he was, he was a real good friend, you know, and it’s just hard talking about it sometimes too, you know.

[Toshira] This is unbearable. It’s unbearable. It’s a pain that I cannot describe to you. I can’t describe what they’ve done to our families. But I, I feel compelled in my heart to be there and support other people because I’m crying right now. But God has built up my strength to be there for other mothers that are suffering in the way that just a mother has had to suffer. And the way that I have had to suffer. And so I just wanted to build a support group that would help them through the same pain that I’ve gone through.

Families Supporting Families Against Police Violence, we stand together in unity, we support each other, we cry together, we lift each other up, we meet, we talk, we talk about our grievances. There’s about 25 families with the organization. the people that are most impacted and firsthand impacted by police violence. We’re just out here sharing and supporting each other I’m just going day to day trying to help other people. And I’m so, I’m in so much pain without you. I wish you could see – Justin, I wish you could see our son and see how much he looks like you, he acts like you, watch him grow. That’s what hurts the most, is that you don’t see our son grow.

Cover image composition made by Niko Georgiades for Unicorn Riot.

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