COL Police shooting investigated

Mentally ill Somali man was wounded multiple times

The fatal shooting of a mentally ill Somali man in Minneapolis has again raised questions about excessive use of force by police officers.

The man was in the street in south Minneapolis, speaking incoherently and holding a machete and a crowbar. Officers tried to get him to put down the weapons, but he failed to do so.

A crisis intervention team was called and one officer fired a stun gun twice. The man, Abu Kassim Jeilani, fell once but got up again and continued to walk. Officers said they began shooting when he appeared to be charging them. Six officers fired, and it has not been determined how many times Jeilani was shot.

Somali residents have said Jeilani, who was married and had two young children, was under treatment for mental illness and was taking medication. They said he did not speak English well and might not have understood the officers' commands. They claimed Somalis on the scene offered to intervene but were not asked to do so.


The police did the right thing in calling the crisis intervention team. If the stun gun had worked, that might have averted the shooting. Officers said darts from the stun gun might have been partially blocked by the man's heavy coat.

It has not been explained why all six officers fired at the man or why he could not have been shot in the leg to disable him rather than in the torso. It is easy to understand that officers in the situation could feel threatened, but those obvious alternatives apparently were not considered.

Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak met for two hours with 40 members of the Somali community and promised a complete and impartial investigation. The six officers involved were placed on paid administrative leave for three days and Rybak asked the Hennepin County Sheriff's Department to conduct the investigation.

It is important to have a complete investigation. It should include whether a disabling shot would have been possible, whether all six officers should have fired and whether other alternatives existed.

Mayor Rybak and Police Chief Robert Olson should also determine whether officers ought to have further training to help them deal more constructively with incidents of this kind. ;

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