David Clifford, Mpls SWAT team leader, convicted of felony assault [VIDEO]

Categories: Crime, Police
Thumbnail image for david clifford rect.jpg
Clifford will be sentenced on May 29. He faces up to seven and a half years in prison.
On Saturday, an Anoka County jury found Minneapolis SWAT team executive officer David Clifford guilty of two counts of felony assault and another count of misdemeanor assault.

SEE ALSO:
-- David Clifford's motion to dismiss charges denied; will stand trial for near-fatal punch
-- Brian Vander Lee, victim of David Clifford's one-punch near-homicide, is home, in bad shape
-- David Clifford, alleged sucker-punch cop, used to work security at a bar


Last June 16, Clifford, 48, nearly killed Star Tribune advertising employee Brian Vander Lee with a single punch to the head on the patio of Tanners Bar in Andover.

Vander Lee's head hit the pavement. He spent 40 days on life support and endured three brain surgeries. He says his cognitive abilities still aren't what they were before the punch, with his speech and hearing remaining particularly affected.

Clifford claims he struck in self-defense after Vander Lee rose from his chair to confront him. Before the confrontation, the two had been arguing from their respective tables. Clifford approached Vander Lee's table because he was upset about Vander Lee's allegedly drunk and obnoxious behavior, but the jury determined that Clifford's actions amounted to assault, not self-defense.

Here's the surveillance camera footage of the incident:



Clifford, a 19-year veteran of the MPD, likely faces five to seven years in prison. According to the Star Tribune, convicted felons are not eligible to hold a Minnesota peace officer license. He was placed on paid administrative leave after he was arrested and remains employed with the MPD for now, but a statement released by MPD chief Janeé Harteau after the verdict was announced suggests Clifford might be out of a job soon:
"This is truly a tragic situation for everyone involved. The actions of David Clifford, although off-duty at the time of the altercation, are not consistent with our department core values and high standards. Clifford's actions that day should not negatively reflect our officers and I ask the public for their continued support and confidence in the women and men of the Minneapolis Police Department who serve our community each day with professionalism, commitment, and integrity."
Anoka County prosecutor Blair Buccicone talked to Vander Lee right after the jury's verdict was revealed.

"[Vander Lee] always just wanted it over. If you think about it, your whole life changes, you're thrown into the public eye, there's a video," Buccicone said, according to the Pioneer Press. "Some of the things that were being said about him on message boards and things like that were just awful. He just feels relief. He hasn't been vindictive at all."

Clifford's attorney argued the jury should give his client the benefit of the doubt because of his law enforcement training and experience. But Buccicone pointed out that Clifford didn't need to resort to violence to deal with Vander Lee.

"Clifford could have walked away. He could have complained to the [bar manager]. He could have moved tables," Buccicone said, according to the PiPress. "It's convenient to rely on your training after the fact, after you've talked to your attorney."


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17 comments
oops
oops

Was his bail low enough?

elanor
elanor

I wonder when Chief Heartou will get around to firing this guy...Ridiculous that Minneapolis taxpayers were paying him an addiitonal 70k and contributing to his pension since this happened.

mmrbass
mmrbass

His training and experience is why throwing the book at him is entirely appropriate. An experienced law enforcement officer worth his salt ought to know enough to de-escalate  a minor verbal conflict without inflicting brain damage.

Marc Spencer
Marc Spencer

i predict clifford will turn up dead by his own hand, or worse, he will flee, prior to his sentancing.

Andy Stealth Trattar
Andy Stealth Trattar

I'm glad Clifford finally got what was coming to him. There is just no justifying what he did. I know this particular blog post didn't mention it...but anyone who truly believes they acted appropriately wouldn't run away afterward! Enjoy your time in prison you animal!

Curtis Meyer
Curtis Meyer

This is why cops don't like to be on camera. Had this video not been available, everyone would have taken his lies as gospel. We have to stop thinking of cops as heroes and angels. The reason this guy thought he was gunna get away with this, is because it probably worked in the past when the video wasn't rolling.

Curtis Meyer
Curtis Meyer

Wait a minute. You mean cops can be criminals? I'm shocked!

jagersont
jagersont

Prison time for this guy is going to be horrible, protective custody, in cell 23 hours a day. There is no way he can be put into normal prison population. Then again I have never been arrested, maybe only in movies are law enforcement persons that are sent to prison given "protective custody" from inmates.

Sucks to be this guy for a lot of reasons, sorry for his victim, senseless at many levels

Tom Fru
Tom Fru

I hope he gets the max

_Joe_
_Joe_

@Clarence Arvid Ritari II Dude, he's a cop.  He's going to get a suspended prison sentence, probation, and a piddly-ass house arrest deal.  It's going to make Lindsay Lohan's sentence look downright harsh by comparison.  He won't spend a day in prison.

_Joe_
_Joe_

@Curtis Meyer Well yeah.. they're not in the NFL.

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