David Clifford, alleged sucker-punching Mpls police sergeant, claims self-defense

Categories: Crime, Police
david clifford head.jpg
Clifford has been charged with third-degree assault and is expected to appear in Anoka County court today.
Surveillance video from Tanners bar seems to show Minneapolis SWAT team executive officer David Clifford hauling off and punching Brian Vander Lee on Saturday evening for no good reason. But Clifford argues there was more to the incident than what can be seen on tape.

Yesterday, Clifford was charged with third-degree assault, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison. But in a criminal complaint, Clifford argues that he struck Vander Lee in self-defense.

Clifford told police that he asked fellow patio patron Vander Lee to stop using offensive language. Vander Lee reportedly stopped for a time, but when he started up again, Clifford approached his table. Once he got there, he came to believe that Vander Lee might strike him, so Clifford decided to take matters in his own hands and punch Vander Lee first.

After punching Vander Lee, Clifford ran across the street and was picked up by his wife, he told police. Officers arrived at his home to question him that night, but Clifford refused to answer the door and didn't turn himself in until the next day. He's been placed on paid administrative leave and remained in jail Monday evening.
Brian Vander Lee crop.jpg
Vander Lee faces a long recovery, but his condition has reportedly improved slightly since the weekend.

The Pioneer Press reports that during his 19 years with the MPD, Clifford has twice been awarded the Medal of Valor, the department's second-highest honor. He's also received two Merit Awards and was nominated for three others. But he was also one of three Minneapolis SWAT team officers named as defendants in a civil rights lawsuit brought by a woman who was eventually awarded $1 million after being severely burned by a flash-bang grenade during a botched 2010 drug raid.

Meanwhile, Vander Lee remains in bad shape after sustaining a serious brain injury that required two surgeries on Sunday, but his condition has reportedly improved slightly. According to the PiPress, Vander Lee wiggled his toes and gave doctors a thumbs-up yesterday, and should be breathing on his own again soon.

Previous coverage:
-- David Clifford, Mpls police sergeant, in jail after nearly killing man with alleged bar sucker punch
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26 comments
ex-cop
ex-cop

Even when there is a film showing dirty cops brutally and illegally attacking or murdering citizens, we have the ignorant punks in our society who still make excuses for cops and their criminal thug behavior. Clifford you're a thug with a badge,  I can't imagine how many false charges you have filed because of your thug temper and personality. I bet half your awards are from fabricated charges or murders you committed in uniform. This guy is so lucky you were not in uniform because he would have been arrested on your false report and falsely imprisoned. You scum bag cops do it all the time, that's why it upsets the ones who have fell victim to dirty cops and their fabricated probable cause and thuggery.

northshoreman
northshoreman

When nearly everyone you come in contact with smarts off and gets attitude with you, a man can hit his breaking point. And this smartass more than likely took the brunt of all of sgt cliffords frustration and got knocked the f@#$ out.

Richardmhairdress
Richardmhairdress

This guy looks like trouble waiting to happen. No one needs scum like this walking around. 

biancajean
biancajean

David Clifford is executive officer of the Minneapolis SWAT team. It doesn't matter if he's on duty or off duty. A professional in any sphere is still a professional. A Fireman is going to do everything necessary to save someone even if he's off duty. A Doctor is a Doctor no matter where they are. It is even more so with a Police Officer. If you have a Commercial Driver's License, A or B, and you get an OWI you're bummin', doesn't matter if you're in you're own private vehicle. Here's the Federal law on it:  49 CFR §383.51 provides that a second conviction of being under the influence of alcohol as prescribed by State law, while operating a CMV or non-CMV, will trigger a lifetime CDL disqualification / suspension.  But somehow it's OK for, not just a regular Police Officer, but an executive of the SWAT team, with 1/2 a drink in him, to sucker punch a drunk guy? He had no business swinging at all, not as a trained professional who I'm sure is fully capable of taking a completely sober, athletic opponent down without swinging a single punch. Makes me wonder what he's done to other people that no one has ever heard about.  If it were just a regular "Joe" that sucker punched him he'd probably be facing attempted murder charges, and he surely wouldn't be on a PAID leave!! It's sickening when these supposed "professionals" (I don't care how many awards you've won) treat people like dirt and get away with it. What's even more sickening is that this supposed "professional" will get 5 years max because he lost his temper and attacked someone. HE RAN ACROSS THE STREET, LEAVING THE SCENE, AND WENT HOME AND THEN REFUSED TO ANSWER HIS DOOR WHEN THE POLICE CAME TO TALK TO HIM!! HELLO!!!!! Does that not scream “Guilty Of More Than Charged” to you?

JOHN
JOHN

By the way abigayejane you are  right on one  point,  we can't judge him because he is the judge,jury and exacutioner. Well  in his  mind

John
John like.author.displayName 1 Like

Abigaylejane please find a chair sit down have a half drink but please for your own safety don't use the cell phone. Sorry to inform you but what your angel of a friend did to Brian,his wife,his 4 little girls,and the rest of his family is F**ked up. HEY sit back down you drunk, delusional, sorry a*s excuse of a human. Do you really think the rest of care how Cilfford's family and who  ever you are (misteress thug ho) are feeling. Lets see hmmmm who do we feel sorry  for the man fighting for his life with family around  him or the thug coward's family who i'm sure are disgraced. Nope i'm staying the family still in the hospital.  Now pickup  that  cell  phone and get some f**kig helping help. SHHHHH speak softly or one of your make believe friends will have to call 911 to save your life from CLIFFORD  

anonymousposter
anonymousposter

Physically attacking someone is never okay unless you are defending yourself or someone else from harm. How can there even be discussion about how this is justified? Even if this guy had just gotten a black eye, which unfortunately is not the case....that is why there are laws. It is assault.

Abigaylejane
Abigaylejane

Dave Clifford is an amazing man. those of you who so not know him obviously have NO idea what you are saying ONLINE! YOU ARE NOT IN THE PLACE TO JUDGE HIM OR ANYONE ELSE! YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHAT THIS FAMILY IS GOING THROUGH AND YOU NEVER WILL BECAUSE YOU HAVE HARDENED HEARTS. please keep your accusing comments to youreself on behalf of my friend. I hope you know there are ALWAYS two sides to the story.

PoliceState
PoliceState

 Thank you for cementing my point. Clifford was undercharged and Lamere was overcharged. Our system is broken when we pick and chose how to enforce the law even if it is with a good intention RE: Overcharging is very dangerous-as bad guys tend to get away things they shouldn't.

Amy is right, dude.
Amy is right, dude.

You forgot a step. Oh and you manipulated the definition of great bodily harm.  Here is the definition, found in Minnesota Statute 609.02: Subd. 8.Great bodily harm. "Great bodily harm" means bodily injury which creates a high probability of death, or which causes serious permanent disfigurement, or which causes a permanent or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ or other serious bodily harm. VanderLee, fully recovered, walks into court. Jury sees a guy who's alive, and learns VanderLee's coma was medically induced as a precaution, without disfigurement or loss of a limb, acquits. Clifford, acquitted walks out. I'd rather see this guy get convicted than walk because a prosecutor follows public outrage rather than the law.  If it turns out that VanderLee has a permanent injury, then by all means I hope the prosecutor amends the charge.

No
No

It's a blog you turd. The paid writers are in the regular citypages articles. You read 1/2 then left a paragraph response. You just want to be seen using your vocabulary. A classic case of encephalendorectalopathy.

Thinking WOW
Thinking WOW

Like the response Mannix67   Amy you must think the jury doesn't have common sence go back to 1st deree The most serious of all assault charges in the state, 1st degree assault is characterized by physically assaulting someone to the point of great bodily harm. Great bodily harm means that you’re accused of  putting this person at risk of death, or caused disfigurement or loss of use. First degree assault is a felony charge and carries up to 20 years in prison with $30,000 in fines. 1.Cliiford waits for the bother to leave 2. Clifford calls wife to pick him up in the lot (her words) why not come in and talk about womens night out thing your lying about  3. Clifford appoaches table 4. Clifford highly trained cop and soldier throw a highly trained punch 5.Clifford flees police 6. Clifford hinds in house BUT Clifford never intended for this to happen. Then stay put tell the police when they showed up hey I feared for my life this is self defence it's on video go ahead mr. police just look at it you'll see. Brian Vanderlee loud on cell phone yes Brain Vanderlee 2 brian surgery almost 3days life support i dont think you could get any closer to death then death itself

Amy
Amy

Battery is included in the assault charge in Minnesota--we have no separate battery charge. Remember that the prosecutor has to prove intent--so to charge with 1st degree assault, the prosecutor would have to prove that Clifford INTENDED to cause death or great bodily harm.  Having worked as a court reporter for 17 years, I can tell you that this is a fairly common crime and would almost always be charged as 3rd degree regardless of who the victim or defendant is.

No
No

That's right...battery powers my iphone.

E in MN
E in MN

Speaking of flash bang grenades - don't forget that this violent criminal maimed a woman a few years back with a flash bang grenade during a SWAT raid on a house that did not in fact contain any drugs.  It cost the city a million dollars to settle that one.

JonnyBeGood
JonnyBeGood

 Act like a prick and be dealt like one...

SecretAgentX9
SecretAgentX9

Why the fuck should they have to stop swearing? It's not against the law. They were in a bar. If this behavior was legal, there'd be punch-outs in nearly every bar in this city every night.

JonnyBeGood
JonnyBeGood

 Or, they guy could have stopped swearing if in fact that was what he was doing.

UNJUST SYSTEM!
UNJUST SYSTEM!

3rd degree assault? Ummm. That's BATTERY and assault. By the looks of it, Attempted Murder! Any normal person would be charged this way. What a BS UNJUST system!!!

MrGasso
MrGasso

You ARE WRONG! Wake up to reality! It's not against the Law to be a loud prick! You want quiet go eat at a Buddhist restaurant.

Bfergen
Bfergen

What does buddist food taste like?

Attorney
Attorney

By the time Swartz and Swartz gets done with this guy He won't have a Pot to Piss In! I Guarantee It! As it well should be!

Revenant
Revenant

It's a bar you idiot, not Chuck E. Cheese. 

Robertstrong
Robertstrong

What does that statement mean....Did you expect the SWAT cop to swing down on a rope, with a gas mask on, break down a door with a ram, and then order him at machine gun point to halt the offensive language?  SWAT training has nothing to do with it. This VanderVictim was probably a drunk prick that finally got under the cops skin after he refused to shut his big drunk yapper, he got punched cuz he is a prick.  Unfortunately, he fell back and struck his head causing injuries...that is very unfortunate for his children and wife.  Lesson, don't be a loudmouth jerkoff and you wont get punched.  If it wasen't the cop, someone else would have done it....Happens several times a night all over the metro. The only reason this is even any big deal on the news is because it was a "cop"...big freaking deal.  If the suspect was a landscaper, this maybe would have been a 3 line story on the back page of the metro.

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