Lawsuit against Minneapolis police alleges retaliation after 'Pointergate'

In a whistleblower lawsuit to be filed today, a former Minneapolis Police Department spokesperson says he was retaliated against when investigating an armed robbery case against Navell Gordon, who later appeared in a picture with Mayor Betsy Hodges, that spawned the Pointergate controversy.

Sgt. Jesse Garcia was a senior detective in the downtown robbery unit last August when he was assigned a case involving an armed robbery at West Broadway and Penn Ave. Navell Gordon was a suspect in that case. Two months later Navell Gordon was working as a neighborhood canvasser in a get out the vote effort, and was photographed with Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges, the two pointing at each other. KSTP-TV reported that the two were flashing a known gang sign, and the story went viral as #Pointergate, with KSTP's story held out for national ridicule.

In the lawsuit, Garcia contends he briefed Commander Catherine Johnson about the case on November 13, and he noticed the commander text messaged the Deputy Chief of Investigations Kris Arneson. Five minutes after the meeting, Commander Johnson allegedly met with Sgt. Garcia and his partner, Sgt. Kelly O'Rourke, and instructed the detectives that they were being removed from the case and to turn over all notes and emails. The lawsuit said Johnson gave no explanation for their removal and said a decision was made not to prosecute the case.

Garcia says he told his commander it would be a crime for a public official to obstruct an investigation for personal or political reasons. The lawsuit that, "It was obvious to Plaintiff that the only reason for killing the investigation was because of the bad press Pointergate had created for Mayor Hodges."

Later on November 13, Garcia says he learned his transfer to the prestigious Violent Offenders Task Force had been rescinded on Commander Johnson's orders. And on December 3, Garcia says he learned he was being transferred from the Downtown Robbery Unit, where he was a senior investigator, to the less prestigious 3rd Precinct Property Crimes Unit.

The Minneapolis Police Department says the armed robbery case involving Gordon is still under active investigation. The Hennepin County Attorney's Office confirms it has previously declined to prosecute the case. The Mayor's office does not comment on pending litigation.

MPD statement

"While the Minneapolis Police Department cannot publicly discuss personnel matters, our thoughts, prayers and support go out to Sergeant Garcia and his family as they continue on their courageous journey."

- Minneapolis Police Department

City attorney statement

"The City has not yet been served with the lawsuit, but we are aware of it. We have every reason to believe that the Police Department's actions were legal and appropriate, and we will vigorously defend the lawsuit in court."

- Susan Segal

Read a copy of the lawsuit

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