By Elizabeth Wolfe and Andy Rose, CNN
A former Minneapolis police officer is charged with assaulting a man during nighttime civil unrest following the death of George Floyd in May 2020, according to a complaint filed Wednesday.
Former officer Justin Stetson is accused of repeatedly punching, kicking and kneeing Jaleel Stallings in the head and face after the man was already lying down on the ground with his hands on the pavement, according to the complaint. The blows left Stallings with “substantial bodily harm,” including a fractured eye socket, the document states.
“An expert use-of-force review of the case materials concluded that then-Officer Stetson’s use of force was ‘unreasonable, excessive, and contrary to generally accepted police practice,'” the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office, which filed the charge in Hennepin County District Court, said in a statement.
Stetson could face up to five years in prison, a $10,000 fine or both penalties if convicted, according to the complaint.
The complaint did not list an attorney for Stetson, and city attorneys who represented him in the federal lawsuit did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment. The Minneapolis Police Department had no comment Thursday.
The encounter between Stetson and Stallings happened on May 30, 2020, just five days after the death of George Floyd, a Black man who was killed by a Minneapolis police officer who knelt on his neck during an arrest. Floyd’s death became the catalyst for nationwide demonstrations against police brutality, some of which resulted in violent clashes between protesters and police.
That night, Stetson was among a group of police officers in an unmarked van who fired “less-lethal” rounds toward a group of people, which included Stallings, hitting Stallings in the chest, the complaint says.
Stallings thought he had been hit by a live round and was unaware it was police officers who fired at him, according to the complaint. He fired back toward the officers, though no officers were harmed, the document says. Stallings believed he was being attacked by civilians and fired in self-defense, his attorney has told CNN.
Once the officers rushed out of the van in response to Stallings’ shots, Stallings realized they were police and lay face down on the ground with his handgun out of reach, the complaint says. As the officers approached, Stetson verbally acknowledged that Stallings was down, then began kicking and hitting him in the head and face, continuing to punch him even after his hands were being held behind his back, according to the complaint.
An external review of the incident by a former law enforcement officer concluded that Stetson’s actions “violated the most basic norms of policing,” the complaint says.
Stallings was later charged with eight criminal counts related to the shots he fired at officers, but he was acquitted by a jury on all counts. He filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city and several police officers, including Stetson. The city agreed to settle the lawsuit for $1.5 million earlier this year.
“Mr. Stallings and I only learned of the criminal charge yesterday. We are still reviewing the complaint and do not expect to have further comment at this time,” Eric Rice, an attorney for Stallings, said Thursday.
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CNN’s Omar Jimenez contributed to this report.