Trial begins for MPD officer who shot into car full of people

A Minneapolis police officer is on trial, facing charges for firing a shot into a car full of people. 

Efrem Hamilton was working an off-duty policing job near Target Field when a fight broke out last November. The case puts a spotlight on police response and the use of potentially deadly force.

Hamilton is charged with three counts, including second degree assault and reckless discharge of a weapon.

According to prosecutors, Hamilton was working off-duty security that night in uniform and with his squad, when he responded to a fight involving gunfire outside a downtown nightclub.

Hamilton drove his squad SUV onto a one-way road near the Pyramid nightclub where a car - filled with several friends not connected to the melee and gunfire - was reversing out, trying to safely get away from the scene.

The two vehicles collided, and prosecutors argue Hamilton used excessive force, putting lives at risk by jumping out of his squad and firing a single round into the car. He barely missed one of six people inside.

Led by attorney Fred Bruno, the defense countered that Hamilton did exactly what he was trained to do and that he actually thought he encountered the suspect vehicle trying to flee the scene.

Hamilton’s attorney said in opening statements that this wasn’t a “who dunnit” matter, but rather a “why dunnit.” He also said Hamilton feared for his life in that moment, thinking those in the car might be armed.

The trial is expected to take about a week. A spokesman with MPD said Hamilton is still with the department and is assigned a “non-enforcement” role as the case continues.