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01-20-06, 09:14 PM #1
Police Officer returns his awarded Medal of Valor after racial controversy
A Minneapolis police officer said Thursday that he would return a medal for bravery he received for a 1990 incident in which he shot and killed a teenager.
Sgt. Dan May cited the outburst of criticism that followed the awarding of the Medal of Valor last week by a committee of fellow officers and civilian police department employees.
The criticism "has adversely affected me and my family and has been a distraction to the police department. I hope that my decision to return the medal can put this matter to rest so that I, and everyone involved, can move forward," May said in a letter to Police Chief Bill McManus.
May has always maintained that he shot 17-year-old Tycel Nelson in self defense in a case that had racial overtones. Nelson was black and May is white.
In his letter, May said several investigations had cleared him of wrongdoing in the shooting. "I have tried to move past this, but the refusal of some people to accept the facts and findings of the case is frustrating," he said.
Though he was returning the medal, May said "it means a lot to have received validation" from his colleagues.
McManus, who had said he was caught off guard when he learned that the medal was being awarded, apologized Thursday in a meeting with Nelson's mother, Earline Skinner, and other family members.
Skinner said that May's return of the medal "makes me feel a whole lot better."
"God works for all of us," she said. "Maybe now all of the truth will come out."
The shooting occurred after May arrived at the scene of a gang shooting and chased a man he believed was armed. After momentarily losing sight of the suspect, May said, he saw the man raise a gun at him. The officer said he fired after the man ignored an order to drop the weapon.
Nelson's family said the young man did nothing wrong. The family's attorneys contested the officer's account, pointing out that Nelson had been shot in the back and that the gun found at the scene bore no fingerprints traceable to him.
A grand jury declined to indict May, but the city paid Nelson's family $250,000 to settle a lawsuit.
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