Felony charge: Minneapolis officer kicked man in face, causing brain injury

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Photo Courtesy: Hennepin County Jail

A former Minneapolis police officer is charged with felony assault for allegedly kicking a domestic assault suspect in the face, breaking his nose and causing a traumatic brain injury.

Christopher Michael Reiter, 36, of Minneapolis was charged Tuesday in Hennepin County for the May 30, 2016 incident. Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman held a news conference Tuesday afternoon to announce the charges and provide additional details on the case.

According to the criminal complaint, Minneapolis police responded to an apartment building last May on a domestic assault call. Officers were told the suspect was Mohamed Osman, who was found in a car parked outside the building. Osman followed police orders to get on the ground, at which point Officer Reiter allegedly kicked him in the face.

Osman collapsed to the ground unconscious and bleeding. He was transported to the hospital by ambulance and diagnosed with a displaced nasal bone, nasal septal fractures and a mild traumatic brain injury.

Osman's attorney, Carson Heefner, says 10 months later, Osman still suffers from dizziness and headaches and can’t return to his job as a truck driver. For that reason, the Hennepin County Attorney is considering increasing the charges against this former officer from third degree to first degree assault.

“Surveillance video from a nearby building captured the assault,” according to court documents. “The defendant is seen quickly approaching Osman and violently kicking him in the face within seconds of M.O. going to the ground.”

An investigation was launched regarding the officer’s use of force. The 3 other police officers on scene were interviewed, and all 3 stated that the situation did not call for the use of deadly force, according to the complaint. A kick to the head is considered deadly force, according to the charges. The investigation was conducted by St. Paul police.

Reiter was charged by warrant with third-degree assault. He is scheduled to appear in court Wednesday.

Statement from Minneapolis Police Chief Janee Harteau

“I have dealt with this matter internally, and we remain committed to creating a culture of accountability within the MPD. These actions are not consistent with our core values and we take that very seriously. Unfortunately, this incident takes away from the great strides we make daily to build public trust. It also takes attention away from the professional service our officers routinely provide while responding to more than 450,000 calls for service annually.”

Reiter was a Minneapolis police officer for 9 years. He was suspended right after the incident and, as of January, no longer on the force.

Domestic assault case status

Although Mohamed Osman is a victim in this excessive force case, he pled guilty in the initial domestic violence incident. According to those charges, he choked a woman until she lost consciousness and punched her in the face, beating her with closed fists.

Statement from Attorney Robert Fowler representing Reiter

Attorney Robert Fowler with the law office of Fowler Ditsch is representing Officer Chris Reiter. I believe that under the law, this officer's use of force was legally justified in this case. The truth is that police officers respond to situations where the use of force is required. Unfortunately, police officers also have to make these important decisions almost instantly, and sometimes with imperfect information. That is why the law justifies the use of force when it is apparent to the officer that it is necessary in certain situations, including to protect themselves, other officers or the public. My client did not have the vantage point of the security camera footage - he was perceiving and processing what he saw happening from a different point of view, coupled with information he had at the time. Hindsight is not available to police officers acting in the moment of their difficult duties. My client intends to dispute the allegations and maintains he was legally justified, and like everyone, he is presumed innocent. I have read the complaint and there are several of the state's claimed facts in dispute, but we are not going to debate the facts in the media and will reserve that for the courtroom.