Ex-MPD officer Stetson plea agreement accepted for Jaleel Stallings beating

A former Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) officer has accepted a plea deal for his role in the beating of a man who previously fired shots near officers during the unrest following the death of George Floyd.

A plea agreement filed May 2 after an agreement with the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office charges Justin Stetson with one count of third-degree assault and one count of misconduct as a public officer/employee, a gross misdemeanor, for his role in the May 30, 2020, incident that left victim Jaleel Stallings bleeding on the pavement from multiple sustained injuries.

As part of the plea agreement, Stetson will never be allowed to work as a police officer in Minnesota again and must refrain from any similar offenses. 

He will also be barred from any contact with Stallings, and must complete a Level 1 anger management course.

During the agreement hearing Tuesday, Stetson offered a written apology to Stallings that acknowledged what happened, pointing to harmful policing and culture issues within the Minneapolis Police Department. Stetson also agreed to file documents with the Minnesota Police Officer Standards and Training Board (POST) to "ensure lifetime compliance."

Previously, Stallings objected to the plea deal that keeps former Minneapolis Police Officer Justin Stetson from going to prison.

"I object because the proposed agreement fails to hold Stetson accountable for the significant harm to me, his profession, and the community he swore to protect," Stallings wrote in an objection filed on May 1.

The 15-page brief objects to Stetson avoiding jail time, and details how Stallings would face a decade in prison had he not been acquitted.  

"Video evidence shows officers racially profiled, committed acts of malicious violence, lied in reports and in court proceedings and used the legal system as a weapon against me," Stallings wrote.

Following the agreement, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison issued the following statement:

"Justin Stetson’s admission of guilt to the facts of a felony and a gross misdemeanor in the assault of Jaleel Stallings is historic. Rarely if ever do police officers plead guilty to using excessive force in the line of duty - and today, Stetson has admitted he did so under color of his official authority, in violation of the law… My thoughts today are with Mr. Stallings, who has endured with courage and dignity an assault and other injustices that never should have happened to him or anyone."

Jaleel Stallings spoke with FOX 9 about ex-Minneapolis Officer Justin Stetson's guilty plea. 

Incident details, resulting charges

The episode lasted little more than 30 seconds, but it played out very differently than what was reported by Minneapolis Police, who just days earlier said that George Floyd died during a medical episode.

According to the criminal charges against Stetson, at 10:53 p.m. on May 30, 2020, he was with a SWAT team driving down East Lake Street at 14th Avenue in a white, unmarked van. The city was under a nighttime curfew from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m.

The passenger door of the van was open as Stetson fired a 40mm "less-lethal" round at four men who had gathered in a parking lot to protect local businesses from looting.

The 40mm round struck Stallings in the chest, but he was unaware the incoming fire was coming from the police. Stallings responded by firing three rounds in the direction of the unmarked van.

Body camera footage shows police responding quickly to the incoming fire, yelling "shots fired," exiting the van, and converging quickly on the men in the parking lot. Stallings, realizing the unmarked van contained police officers, "put his gun down and laid prone on the ground" with "his arms outstretched above his head and palms facedown," according to the charges.

As Officer Stetson approached, he yelled, "Get on the ground, dude."

Before Stetson even reaches Stallings, he says, "He’s down," and "He’s on the ground."

But when Stetson reaches Stallings, who is prone and not resisting, Stetson kicks him in the face and head. He strikes Stallings repeatedly as he yells, "F---ing piece of s—t."

According to the charges, in a flurry Stetson kicked him in the head four times, punched him in the head six times, and delivered five knee strikes to his head.

Jaleel Stallings following the incident.

Stetson also slammed Stallings head into the pavement, before giving his first command, "Get your hands behind your back."

As Sgt. Andrew Bittell holds Stallings hands behind his back, Stetson continues to strike him.

"That’s it, stop!" Bittell yells at Stetson, as he grabs Stetson’s right wrist, and says, "It’s OK."

Minutes later Sgt. Bittell will falsely claim that Stallings was resisting arrest when asked about his injuries.

Several officers looked at Stallings injuries, with blood pouring from his face, and mistakenly thought he had been shot.

"He was resisting when we approached. That’s the way it happens. It happens," Sgt. Bittell said falsely.

According to the complaint, Stetson had been with Minneapolis police since 2011 and had received 1,200 hours of training, including use-of-force training, during that time. Stetson left the force in August 2022.

Stallings acquitted, reaches $1.5 million settlement

Stallings was charged with attempted murder and first-degree assault for firing at an unmarked police van patrolling south Minneapolis during the civil unrest following the murder of George Floyd. Stallings argued self-defense and was acquitted of charges in September 2021.

He reached a $1.5 million settlement with the City of Minneapolis after he filed a lawsuit against the 19 officers on the SWAT team claiming they used excessive force and filed false police reports.