Originally published on May 21, 2015, at NationofChange.org
A decorated Minneapolis police officer with a history of brutality complaints was charged on Wednesday with viciously assaulting at least four people while off-duty. After falsifying police reports, Officer Michael Griffin allegedly committed perjury multiple times to cover up his crimes. The city has already paid over $410,000 to settle two lawsuits filed by Officer Griffin’s victims.
The first incident began outside the Aqua Nightclub and Lounge in downtown Minneapolis after closing time on May 29, 2010. An argument between a married couple outside the bar led to a confrontation between Griffin and Ibrahim Regai. Griffin, who was off-duty and friends with the husband, flashed his badge and threatened to arrest Regai, who was friends with the wife.
Instead of fighting Griffin, Regai retreated to the nearby Envy Nightclub where he worked part-time. Regai approached the employee’s entrance and rang the doorbell, but Griffin followed Regai and sucker-punched him in the face before anyone could open the door. According to the indictment, Griffin repeatedly struck him in the face until Regai was unconscious.
After identifying himself as a cop to two nearby on-duty Minneapolis police officers, Griffin directed them to arrest Regai for assaulting a police officer. They arrested Regai, and Griffin filed a police report falsely claiming that the bouncers at Aqua witnessed Regai threatening him and had to forcibly remove Regai from the premises. Griffin also falsely accused Regai of throwing a punch at him and concocted a story about failing to sweep Regai’s legs before knocking him unconscious.
Footage from a surveillance camera revealed Griffin had lied about Regai attacking him. The Minneapolis City Attorney’s Office later dismissed the assault charge against Regai.
In a separate incident on November 5, 2011, Griffin was off-duty at the Loop Bar in Minneapolis when an IT salesman named Jeremy Axel and his friends asked him to move so Axel could join his friends. Griffin refused to move and threatened to have them removed from the bar. Instead of telling them that he was a police officer, Griffin threatened to call his boys to the bar.
After approaching a bouncer, Griffin flashed his badge and ordered the bouncer to remove Axel and his friends. Following them outside, Griffin called his partner who was working off-duty nearby. When Officer William Gregory arrived moments later in his uniform and patrol car, Griffin ordered him to take Axel’s friend, Matthew Mitchell, into custody.
As Officer Gregory led Mitchell to the squad car, Keyon Cooley followed asking the officer where he was taking his friend. In response, Griffin grabbed Cooley from behind and slammed him against the ground. After placing Mitchell and Cooley in the patrol car, Griffin stood outside the vehicle screaming at both men.
Griffin then opened the car door and ordered Mitchell to exit the vehicle. After leading Mitchell toward a loading dock area, Griffin kicked Mitchell in the chest and knocked him to the ground. While sitting in a nearby taxi, Axel witnessed Griffin beating his friend.
After Axel exited the taxi and approached Mitchell, Griffin struck Axel in the back of the head knocking him unconscious. As Axel remained motionless on the ground, Griffin kicked him in the head.
Mitchell ran back to Gregory’s patrol car and asked him for help. While Mitchell dialed 911 on his cellphone requesting a “real” cop, Gregory also summoned dispatch for an ambulance and a supervisor. Axel was transported to a hospital, and Mitchell was arrested for obstructing a police officer with force.
Griffin filed a police report falsely stating that Axel instigated the fight by pushing Griffin violently from behind at the Loop Bar. He also claimed that Axel’s friends threatened him and that a bouncer warned him not to go outside because Axel and his friends were waiting for him. In his official police report, Griffin falsely asserted that Axel, Cooley, and Griffin attempted to assault him.
Suffering from a concussion, Axel had to have several teeth replaced after the beating. The charges against Mitchell were later dismissed by the Minneapolis City Attorney’s Office.
“Police officers cannot use their shield as a weapon against innocent civilians,” stated U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger. “This defendant is charged with assaulting at least four people in his capacity as an off-duty officer, filing false paperwork, and lying multiple times while under oath. Minneapolis is well served by the many hard-working and honest officers of the Minneapolis Police Department, and I am proud of the close working relationship between the department and my office to address violent crime in the city. At the same time, we will not stand for those who abuse their badge and the public’s trust.”
Regai and Axel filed separate lawsuits against Griffin alleging excessive use of force. During depositions and at civil trial, Griffin reportedly committed perjury by falsely claiming that his victims had attacked him. Regai received a $140,000 settlement, while the city ended up paying over $270,000 to settle Axel’s lawsuit.
Griffin joined the force in 2007 and was awarded the department’s medal of valor in 2013. He has had at least 19 complaints filed against him, including six from last year. On Wednesday, Griffin was charged with four counts of deprivation of rights under color of law, three counts of perjury, and two counts of destruction, alteration, or falsification of records in federal investigations.