01/19/2006

Minneapolis officer returning medal awarded for disputed shooting

The Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS- A Minneapolis police officer said Thursday he would return a medal for bravery he received last week for a 1990 incident in which he shot and killed a teenager.

Sgt. Dan May noted that an outburst of criticism followed the awarding of the Medal of Valor by a committee made up of fellow officers and civilian police department employees.

The criticism "has adversely affected me and my family and has been a distraction to the police department," May said in a statement.

May has always maintained that he shot 17-year-old Tycel Nelson in self defense. May is white and Nelson was black.

He said Thursday that investigations had cleared him of wrongdoing but "the refusal of some people to accept the facts and findings of the case is frustrating."

Police Chief Bill McManus, also in response to the criticism, said Wednesday that he would present a letter of apology to Nelson's mother, Earline Skinner, who had said the awarding of the medal renewed the family's anguish.

"Me and my family were starting to be able to walk with our heads up in the air after being kept down for so long," she said last week. "Why are they doing this?"

The shooting occurred after May arrived at the scene of a gang shooting and chased a man he believed was armed. After momentarily losing sight of the suspect, May said, he saw the man raise a gun at him. The officer said he fired after the man ignored an order to drop the weapon.

Nelson's family said the young man did nothing wrong. The family's attorneys contested the officer's account, pointing out that Nelson had been shot in the back and that the gun found at the scene bore no fingerprints traceable to him.

A grand jury declined to indict May, but the city paid Nelson's family $250,000 to settle a lawsuit.

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