Sister of man killed in 2019 officer-involved shooting in Eagan files wrongful death lawsuit

The sister of a man killed in an officer-involved shooting in Eagan last year is filing a wrongful death lawsuit against the cities of Bloomington, Burnsville, Eagan, Edina and the officers directly involved in the incident. The lawsuit is seeking in damages in excess of $20 million.

In July 2019, 23-year-old Isak Aden was shot and killed by police after an hours-long standoff. In November, Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom decided not to charge the five officers who fired their weapons, saying they were legally justified in using deadly force. Thursday, Sumaya Aden filed a wrongful death civil rights lawsuit.

"The death of Mr. Aden is yet another tragic display of an over-aggressive, over-militarized police response to a Black man and a failure of proper training, effective policies, and clear law enforcement leadership," read a statement from attorney Matthew Lawlyes.

What led up to the shooting

Before the shooting, Aden got into an argument with his ex-girlfriend because he believed she had shared explicit photos of him without his consent, the lawsuit alleges.

According to the Dakota County Attorney's Office, the ex-girlfriend called 911 to report that Aden had "just pulled a gun" on her. The lawsuit claims she later told law enforcement before the shooting happened that she only saw the handgun in his waistband and "became panicked."

According to the attorney's office, officers arrived and began searching for Aden. Around 6:44 p.m. they spotted him on foot and after a brief chase they followed Aden to the 1900 block of Seneca Drive, where sat on a curb and held a handgun to his head.

According to the Dakota County Attorney's Office, officers ordered Aden to drop the gun, to which he responded with "F-----' shoot me." An officer continued to talk to Aden as more agencies responded and formed a perimeter. SWAT and an armored vehicle were among the response.

According to the Dakota County Attorney's Office, Aden followed orders and put down the gun around 7:07 p.m., but when the officer asked him to stand up and move forward, Aden picked the gun back up and held it to his head again. Starting around 7:25 p.m. the officer began using the PA system from an armored vehicle to communicate with Aden. The lawsuit states Aden was not given a cellphone for negotiations until three hours into the standoff.

After continued negotiations, Aden put the gun down on the ground around 8:56 p.m., according to the lawsuit and the attorney's office.

The deadly encounter

According to the attorney's office, law enforcement devised a plan to deploy a flashbang and then use less lethal munitions to get him to move further away from the gun so that they could take him into custody. The lawsuit criticizes the plan, saying it would ultimately lead to Aden's death.

"In fact, the Law Enforcement Defendants appear to have completely failed to discuss or anticipate how Mr. Aden would react or what types of movement Mr. Aden may make after being struck by incoming rounds and explosions," read the lawsuit.

Around 10:37 p.m. law enforcement threw a flashbang, which went off near Aden. Video released by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension shows after the blast, Aden got up and moved toward the gun on the ground. A blur added to the video obscures what happens next.

Both the lawsuit and the attorney's office say Aden picked up the gun. In response, five officers fired lethal rounds, striking and killing Aden. The lawsuit states Aden was hit 11 times by bullets. 

"The election to use deadly force against Mr. Aden despite the absence of an immediate threat and his predictable reaction is particularly egregious given that the Law Enforcement Defendants had surrounded Mr. Aden with elite, specially trained SWAT team operators, whose central duty is life-saving and to operate with skill, knowledge, and restraint in the face of potential danger," read the lawsuit.

According to the attorney's office, it was later determined Aden fired the gun.