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01-13-06, 01:03 PM #1
Controversy Over Officer's Medal Of Valor
Police Sgt. Dan May has always maintained that he shot 17-year-old Tycel Nelson in self-defense in 1990. But May is white, Nelson was black, and the teen's death outraged many in the black community.
Now, the Police Department has given May a Medal of Valor for the shooting, and the old divide is opening up again.
Chief Bill McManus said the medal was awarded by a committee that doesn't need his approval. The same committee unanimously approved May for the medal in 1990, but then-Chief John Laux rejected it. A change in the mid-1990s allowed the committee to award medals without a chief's approval.
"Based on what I heard about this case, I wouldn't have approved the medal," McManus said.
May is now a supervisor in the police canine unit. He said he was surprised three weeks ago when he learned he would receive the medal, and that he realized the honor would open old wounds.
A fellow canine officer nominated May for the award. The committee hands out several honors and commendations during the year after reviewing each case. Medal of Valor recipients are usually officers who have faced life-threatening situations, said Lt. Rick Thomas, head of the committee.
Thomas said department administrators decided that May wouldn't receive his award during a ceremony with other award recipients. He said the committee knew the award would create some tension in the community, but that May met the criteria.
May said he appreciates the honor, but doesn't know why he was re-nominated. He said the shooting changed his life forever and that he's been trying for 15 years to forget about it.
"I think the ceremony was done in a low-key fashion because nobody needs to open old wounds in the community," May said. "But when there are officer-involved shootings to this day, my name is still brought up. I'm sure the Nelson family wishes this wouldn't come up again."
Nelson's mother, Earline Skinner, wondered if the department knew how much anguish May's medal is putting her family through. She said she still can't sleep at night and is sure her son wasn't doing anything wrong when May shot him.
"Me and my family were starting to be able to walk with our heads up in the air after being kept down for so long," she said. "Why are they doing this?"
The shooting occurred after a party of Disciples gang members was crashed by a group of rival Vice Lords. Then, two Vice Lords were wounded in shootings.
May was the first officer on the scene. He pulled out a shotgun and chased a man whom he believed was an armed suspect, who he later identified as Nelson. May has said he lost sight of the suspect momentarily, then spotted Nelson raising a gun at him. He said he fired only after Nelson ignored his order to drop the weapon.
No one else saw the shooting. Skinner later sued, alleging that May shot an unarmed youth who was harmlessly running away from him. Her attorneys were poised to make the most of three undisputed facts: Nelson was shot in the back; the .22-caliber revolver found at the scene bore no traceable fingerprints linking it to him, and May initially described the suspect he was chasing as wearing a brown leather coat, although Nelson was wearing a black-and-white-striped shirt.
Nelson had been jailed twice on drug charges and admitted his gang membership to police officers on a summer youth outing in the Boundary Waters the summer before he died.
"The shooting was very straightforward," May said Thursday. "There was nothing that wasn't self-defense. It snowballed into something very controversial."
A grand jury cleared May of any wrongdoing, but the city paid $250,000 to Nelson's family to drop the lawsuit.
Ron Edwards, a member of the Police Department's community relations council, said he was shocked when he heard about May's medal. He believes someone is trying to undermine chief McManus' relationship with the African-American community.
"Tycel's death left deep wounds that stay with a community for 50 years," he said. "I don't understand the obsession with an officer wanting to nominate May for this."
01-13-06, 01:07 PM #2But May is white, Nelson was black, and the teen's death outraged many in the black community.
01-13-06, 01:08 PM #3A grand jury cleared May of any wrongdoing, but the city paid $250,000 to Nelson's family to drop the lawsuit.Don't hit at all if it is honorably possible to avoid hitting; but never hit soft. -
People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.
01-13-06, 03:29 PM #4FishTail GuestOriginally Posted by BEK320
01-13-06, 04:11 PM #5^
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Gawd I'm sick of people playing the race card to try to get free money and get an officer of the law in trouble! We all know how much less controversial this story would be if the officer was black and the youth was white.
01-13-06, 11:58 PM #6
They could've found a smoking gun in his hand, crack in his system, and his DNA linked to a murder and race would've still been the central issue.
01-22-06, 05:49 PM #7
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Minneapolis Police Chief Bill McManus said he would issue an apology after a police officer who fatally shot a teenager received a Medal of Valor for his actions in the racially divisive case.
Sgt. Dan May has always maintained that he shot 17-year-old Tycel Nelson in 1990 in self defense. Nelson was black and May is white.
May was recently given the Medal of Valor, one of the police department's highest honors. The decision made by an independent awards committee opened old wounds.
McManus told the City Council he would present a letter of apology on Thursday to Earline Skinner, Nelson's mother. The Rev. Ian Bethel, co-chairman of the Police Community Relations Council, co-signed the letter.
McManus also said he wanted to "put this to bed."
"There are a few steps I'll take to further resolve this by the end of the week," he said, saying the steps were internal.
McManus did not explain why the awards committee decided to give May the award.
"I won't speculate, but I have my thoughts on the matter," he said.
Nelson was killed in December 1990 by May, who was responding to a shooting at a Minneapolis home. May said he shot Nelson in self-defense. In a lawsuit against the city, Skinner's attorneys said May shot an innocent boy. The lawsuit was settled in 1993.
The awards committee made up of officers and civilian employees selected May for the honor last year. McManus said he knew about the award and thought he could veto it -- but he discovered the committee's decisions did not need his approval.
McManus said the rules have been changed and he now has the power to approve or reject nominations.
City Council Member Ralph Remington said the award was disrespectful.
"It comes as no surprise to me that an award was offered to disrespect people of color," he said. "It's a ramification of institutionalized racism in this country. It's hurtful."
Council Member Cam Gordon said elected officials should have input on future police awards. McManus said he'd welcome the council's assistance.
Council Member Gary Schiff said he was upset local-access TV cameras had been turned off during Wednesday's discussion with McManus.
"I'm very disappointed that we appear to be discussing this in secret," he said.
McManus said he has taken the community response seriously and that he will be cautious in the future about any personnel awards.
"Shame on me that it happened that way," he said, "but I guarantee it won't happen again."
01-22-06, 07:21 PM #8
Issue an apology....damn
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