MINNEAPOLIS - A former Minneapolis police officer made his first court appearance Thursday on charges of third-degree assault, accused of brutally kicking a man in the face, breaking his nose and causing a traumatic brain injury.
Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman says 36-year-old Christopher Michael Reiter was among four officers to respond to a domestic assault call in May of 2016. When those officers arrived they were told the alleged assailant, Mohammed Abdi Osman, was outside in his vehicle. They went outside and confronted the suspect, told him to get out of the vehicle, and onto his hands and knees. Osman complied.
At that point, Freeman says Reiter kicked the suspect in the face with deadly force, breaking his nasal cavity and causing a traumatic brain injury that prevents Osman from working to this day.
Osman's attorney believes Officer Reiter assaulted Osman out of anger for what Osman did to his girlfriend.
"They saw her. They saw the injuries, and shortly thereafter they assaulted my client. So it is my opinion that the officer assaulted my client simply because of what he saw in injuries to my client's girlfriend at the time," said attorney Carson Heefner.
In court papers, the injured woman wrote, "He hurt me really bad. He broke my teeth and my nose. We had a dinner together. We had an argument about his wife because she has been calling from a blocked number. The argument was escalating and he slapped me so hard and choked me so bad and he was punching me. He gave me two black eyes."
Prosecutors say the fellow officers who witnessed the incident say deadly force was not warranted.
Minneapolis Police confirm that Reiter was fired from the department on January 11, although the administration will not confirm whether his dismissal was spurred by this case.
“I have dealt with this matter internally, and we remain committed to creating a culture of accountability within the MPD," said Minneapolis Police Chief Janee Harteau in a statement. "These actions are not consistent with our core values and we take that very seriously. Unfortunately, this incident takes away from the great strides we make daily to build public trust. It also takes attention away from the professional service our officers routinely provide while responding to more than 450,000 calls for service annually.”
St. Paul police investigated the case to avoid a conflict of interest.
The alleged assault is not Reiter's first brush with trouble. In 2015 he and another Minneapolis officer were sued in federal court over the violent arrest of well-known activist Al Flowers. While the two officers were cleared by an internal affairs investigation, the Minneapolis City Council voted in February to settle a civil lawsuit with Flowers for $25,000. The Star Tribune reports that incident is one of eight excessive force cases Minneapolis Police have investigated against Reiter, two of which remain open.
In August of 2015, Reiter found himself under scrutiny after three prostitution cases were dismissed due to the conduct of undercover officers, one of whom was Reiter. A judge ruled that Reiter initiated sexual contact that was not necessary to making a case.
"The sexual contact that officer Reiter engaged in was totally unnecessary to the evidence gathering process," said Jeffrey Dean, the attorney for the woman who was charged with prostitution.
The Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis issued a statement Wednesday afternoon, saying: "In any situation like this, it is incredibly important to gather and review all the facts and to make sure justice has a chance to take place. Images and videos that often look horrific must be reviewed in the context of the overall incident beyond the point of view of one camera angle. Officer Reiter deserves the same presumption of innocence every citizen is afforded in our justice system."