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Minneapolis parks board settles with detained Somali teens

Each family will get $40,000 to settle the discrimination complaint filed with the state Department of Human Rights.

MINNEAPOLIS — Families of four Somali-American teenagers who said they feared for their lives when they were detained by Minneapolis Park Police officers in July 2018 have reached a $170,000 settlement with the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, a civil rights group announced Wednesday.

The Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations said each family will get $40,000 to settle the discrimination complaint filed with the state Department of Human Rights. The rest of the settlement funds will cover attorneys' fees.

The Minneapolis Park Board said a final court ruling on the settlement came in November 2019. CAIR-MN announced the settlement Wednesday. 

"The families have gone through a lot. The young kids have also gone through a lot from this incident. We are happy today to report that this incident is behind them, but they're still traumatized," said CAIR-MN Executive Director, Jaylani Hussein during a press conference announcing the settlement.

The July 10, 2018, incident at Minnehaha Park drew widespread attention after a bystander who recorded part of it and posted the video online. The teens were handcuffed, and at one point an officer drew his gun and pointed it in the direction of the teens.

The teens have said they were just having fun with friends when they were detained.

The officers were responding to a female 911 caller who falsely reported that four teens were following her boyfriend and wielding knives and sticks. Park police released the four teens after finding they were unarmed. Witness accounts also contradicted the 911 caller's story.

RELATED: Somali teens say they feared for their lives at Minnehaha Park

In a past interview with KARE 11, the teens said a white teenager called them racial slurs and threatened them with a knife and a garbage lid. 

Video from the responding officers' body cameras, released Wednesday after the announcement of the settlement, shows the first interactions the officers had with the teens. It shows one of the officers with a gun in hand for at least a minute while the other officer puts the teens in handcuffs.

In a statement regarding the settlement, the Park Board noted that the settlement was not an admission of discrimination or use of excessive force.

“We are committed to providing safe and welcoming parks for everyone,” said Al Bangoura, Superintendent of the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board. “We took the 2018 incident at Minnehaha Falls seriously and conducted an independent employment investigation of our officers’ conduct. With last year’s settlement the juveniles, their families, and the MPRB can move forward.”

The Park Board said their investigation found the detention of the teens to be appropriate. However, one of the officers was suspended for two days for not deescalating the situation and not explaining the stop to the teens after they were released. The Park Board says the officer also received additional training.