ANOKA, Minn. - The Minneapolis police sergeant charged in a violent weekend assault that left a man with severe brain injuries was released from jail Tuesday morning.
David Clifford, a veteran officer and commander of the Minneapolis SWAT Team, was arraigned Tuesday morning in Anoka County Court and then posted $15,000 bail. He was released on the conditions that he refrains from using alcohol and has no contact with victim Brian Vander Lee or his wife.
Prosecutors say Clifford and the 43-year-old Vander Lee had an altercation on the patio of Tanners Station in Andover on Saturday night. Clifford told investigators that he became angry that Vander Lee was talking loudly and using profanity on his cell phone. The two had a brief argument, and then witnesses say Clifford punched the victim once. Vander Lee suffered severe brain trauma, most likely after hitting his head on concrete. He is hospitalized after undergoing brain surgery.
The incident was captured on surveillance tape, and will be key to the prosecution's case.
"Uncontrolled angry behavior has led to very serious injuries here." said Anoka County Attorney Tony Palumbo in a written statement.
His close friend Mike Archambault says Vander Lee is improving and was breathing on his own Monday night.
David Clifford turned himself in Sunday and was taken into custody.
On Tuesday Minneapolis Police Chief Tim Dolan released the following statement:
I pray for Mr. Brian Vander Lee and his family.
Since we were made aware of this incident, the Minneapolis Police Department has actively assisted Anoka County with the criminal investigation. We also immediately initiated an internal investigation. The Minneapolis Police Department does not wait until a criminal prosecution has been completed to make internal findings and take disciplinary action.
During the hearing Clifford's defense attorney described him as a law abiding citizen with Minnesota roots who is not a flight risk. He also maintained that Clifford had only half a cocktail to drink the night of the incident and was not intoxicated.
Prosecutors noted the violence involved in the altercation when asking the judge to impose $25,000 bail.
KARE 11 reporter Bryan Piatt describes the courtroom as packed with both supporters of David Clifford and family and friends of Brian Vander Lee
David Clifford is charged with third degree felony assault. His next court appearance is scheduled for July 19.
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