Mpls. officers who made comments in bodycam footage have left force

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Minneapolis police Lt. Johnny Mercil and Cmdr. Bruce Folkens, who were both recorded on body cameras making derogatory comments about protesters during the unrest after George Floyd's murder, have left the department, city officials confirmed Friday.

Mercil, 49, left the department after May 4, according to Mayor Jacob Frey's office. Folkens, 56, worked his final day July 31, said a spokesman for the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD).

In recordings released this week, Mercil can be heard saying he believed a group of protesters were white "because there's not looting and fires," while Folkens referenced "hunting people" during the unrest.

Frey's office didn't comment on the circumstances of either officer's departure.

The video of Mercil, Folkens and other officers was released in connection with the case of Jaleel K. Stallings, 29, who was acquitted of attempted murder and several other charges after he returned fire at officers who fired a 40-millimeter "marking round" at him from an unmarked van.

Stallings said he didn't realize it was police who had shot at him and that he responded in self-defense. Body camera and surveillance video shows Stallings immediately go to the ground. Officer Justin Stetson and Sgt. Andrew Bittell punched and kicked Stallings, who did not resist, as he said, "Listen, listen, sir!" before he is pulled to a sitting position, bloodied and dazed.

Stallings' acquittal was first reported by the Minnesota Reformer, which was the first outlet to release the video. It was later released to other media by Stallings' attorney, Eric Rice, who declined to comment Friday. Frey called the footage "galling" but declined to discuss whether discipline resulted from the case.

On the night of May 30, 2020, five days after Floyd's death, Mercil was recorded discussing whether to arrest a group of protesters. "It's time to start [expletive] put … people in jail and just prove the mayor wrong about these white supremacists from out of state," he is heard saying, apparently in reference to assertions at the time by state officials that outside agitators were fueling the unrest. "Although this group probably is predominantly white because there's not looting and fires."

Mercil also said to officer Michael Osbeck, "[Expletive] these media," and mockingly added, "Hold on a second, let me check your credentials, make a few phone calls to verify …"

Osbeck responded, "They think they can do whatever they want." Mercil said, "There's a [expletive] curfew."

Media, however, were exempt from the curfews imposed after Floyd's death. Attempts to reach Mercil on Friday were not successful.

Just after midnight May 31, footage from officer Joseph Adams' body camera recorded him commenting to Folkens that it was a "busy night," and Folkens responding, "Tonight it was just nice to hear, 'We're gonna find some more people instead of chasing people around … you guys are out hunting people now, it's just a nice change of tempo … [Expletive] these people."

Folkens didn't respond to a message left at his home. Other body camera video from that night shows Stetson repeatedly firing marking rounds at protesters before yelling "Gotcha!" while officer Kristopher Dauble laughs and the two fist-bump.

All other officers shown in the video remain with the department, a spokesman said.

On April 6, Mercil testified for the prosecution about the city's use-of-force training and policies in ex-officer Derek Chauvin's trial in Floyd's killing.

He said the minimal amount of force needed should be used and the force Chauvin used on Floyd was unauthorized by department policy.

"If you can use a lower level of force to meet your objectives, it's safer and better for everybody," he said.

At the time of his testimony, Mercil said he was in charge of the department's use-of-force training but was on medical leave.

Mercil joined the MPD in 1996 and worked as a patrol officer in the Third Precinct in southeast Minneapolis, the same precinct as Chauvin. During his career, he also was part of the Community Response Team, mounted patrol, robbery and juvenile units.

He was promoted from sergeant to lieutenant in 2017 and transferred to the training division, where he was placed in charge of use of force.

Folkens started his career in 1988 as a patrol officer in the Fifth Precinct and eventually worked in homicide, narcotics and gang units. He also was one of two officers in charge of operations during Super Bowl LII at U.S. Bank Stadium in February 2018.

In 2015, then-chief Janeé Harteau promoted Folkens to deputy chief of investigations from commander of the Special Crimes Investigations Division, which includes domestic assault, sex crimes, juvenile and traffic investigations.

So far this year, the city's website shows Police Chief Medaria Arradondo issued one suspension and three letters of reprimand.

Chauvin is serving 22 ½ years in prison after he was convicted this year of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in Floyd's death. Three other fired officers are awaiting trial in the murder. All four also face federal indictments.

Staff writer Liz Navratil contributed to this report.

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