Last week, a Minneapolis police officer was caught on video slinging an elderly Black man around like a rag doll at an Aldi supermarket on Franklin Avenue in South Minneapolis. His crime: talking back to the police. Officially he was charged with obstructing the legal process with force.
MPD officer Christopher Lange was working off-duty as security at the store when he intervened in a dispute involving 64-year-old Troy Lee Billups and a younger man, which according to witnesses, had not turned violent until Officer Lange began pushing one of the men.
“This egregious incident further highlights a number of issues within MPD. When officers working off-duty security shifts abuse and arrest customers unnecessarily, it poses a number of risks to the safety of Minneapolis residents,” said the Racial Justice Network last week in a statement.
Another viral video
The over four-minute video began with Officer Lane talking with Billups. Suddenly, Lane says, “You’re out!” He grabs Billups by the collar and begins throwing him to the ground. As Billups tries to avoid being manhandled, Lane uses more force, throwing the elderly man around apparently in an attempt to get handcuffs on him.
“You’re supposed to de-escalate!” the person recording the video can be heard yelling at the beginning of the recording.
Warning: This video includes graphic language and scenes that might be offensive to some readers.
“What are you doing? This isn’t de-escalating? How is this de-escalating? How the f– is this de-escalating?” the person recording continued. “What are you doing? Why is he under arrest?” asked a bystander.
“He did nothing! Why are you putting your hands on him?” said another onlooker.
The person recording threw a few insults at Officer Lane as he wrestles on the ground with Billups. “Watching those carts aren’t enough for you? You need somebody to kiss the ring,” the person said.
When Lane tried to justify his actions to bystanders by blaming the older man, the person recording responded, “You escalated the situation. And you made this happen. It’s clear as day. It’s two people having a conversation with each other, and you decided to escalate the situation by shoving him. You escalated the situation and you made this happen,” the person said.
Billups manages to get to his feet and demanded that the cop let him go. The person recording asks, “If they don’t kiss the ring they are arrested right?” A woman then intervenes and tries to calm the older Black man who continues to complain about the cop putting his hands on him.
There is a break in the video and then it picks up where the men are near two other squad cars that are waiting. “I didn’t put my hands on you, you shouldn’t have put your hands on me,” the visibly worked-up Aldi customer said. After the officer accuses him of fighting, the man clarifies: “We wasn’t fighting, we was talking.”
As the officer proceeds to empty the man’s pockets and handcuffs the man, the bystander recording the incident agrees: “No pushing happened until you pushed them. I was standing right there no one pushed anybody until you pushed them.”
When told he was under arrest, the elderly man asked, “For what? I didn’t do nothing. I just told you not to put your hands on him.”
Billups was released from jail on Thursday, Dec. 2, according to Hennepin County records. A spokesman for the Minneapolis Police Department said the incident is under review.
According to the Racial Justice Network, Officer Lange has been investigated for misconduct five times since 2019. The organization last week demanded that he be barred from working off-duty at Aldi or any other location that serves People of Color. They also demanded he should be placed on administrative leave pending the results of an investigation into his actions and that he should be fired.
“It is simply unacceptable to allow an officer with such a history of abuse to continue serving the residents of Minneapolis,” read RJN’s statement. “His actions were unwarranted, dangerous, and in direct violation of the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) Policy and Procedure Manual. Yet, multiple squads responded to a low-level incident that was caused by an officer’s violent and unnecessary response. This seems to be a tremendous waste of precious city resources in unwarranted situations.”
The video was uploaded to Instagram and has been viewed by over 110,000 times. The person who uploaded it from the @farahleft account wrote, “Jacob Frey sought to invest another 27 million dollars into this broken system—here’s what that’s paying for.”
“MPD officers will abuse Black people on film, while other Black people admonish them in real-time, all for the crime of annoying them and not obeying like a child. Such a mundane abuse of power. Because this 64- yr old man refused to be demeaned, MPD thought it proper to arrest” tweeted local artist, director, and human rights activist DA Bullock.
Mel Reeves was the community editor at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder until he passed away on January 6, 2022. He had a long and storied history working at the MSR.
Find more about Reeve’s life and legacy here: spokesman-recorder.com/category/remembering-mel-reeves.