Lawyer: Minneapolis cop punch video ‘speaks for itself’ - FOX 10 News |

Lawyer: Minneapolis cop punch video ‘speaks for itself’

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The civil attorney for the man punched by a Minneapolis police officer at an Andover bar last month says surveillance video obtained by FOX 9 "speaks for itself."

"I don't have much to say. The video speaks for itself," said Chris Messerly, attorney for the family of Brian Vander Lee. "I don't think it's appropriate to try cases in the media. Right now, I'm sitting this one out and watching from the sidelines."

Messerly will represent Vander Lee in any future civil litigation, and while he is content to sit out of the discussion of the video footage, the attorney representing Sgt. David Clifford is hoping people take a good look.

"You look at the video and you can't believe they charged him," said Fred Bruno, who is representing Clifford. "He didn't use any force until he was attacked by Mr. Vander Lee."

On Wednesday,  Bruno told his client's side of the story for the first time.

"[Vander Lee] threw a left hook, see that clear as a bell," Bruno said. "Before that, he threw a right elbow to the abdomen of Sgt. Clifford."

When FOX 9 News first aired the video of the footage of the knockout punch on Tuesday night, Bruno said the video clearly shows Vander Lee is the aggressor. On Wednesday, he wasn't so definitive, saying that those who watch the video will see what they want to; however, he still believes the video will help him break down the prosecutions case.

Bruno says watching the video in real time shows one thing, but slowing down the on-camera confrontation and the six seconds will show much more than a man throwing a punch.

"His intuition -- and that of his wife -- was that these were dangerous people," Bruno said.

But that begs the question, why did he leave the scene -- and his wife -- immediately after knocking Vander Lee out cold?

"If Sgt. Clifford stayed, it would have been a melee on the patio," Bruno said. "He retreated from the situation for his own safety and public safety."

Charges against Sgt. David Clifford were upgraded Tuesday from third to first degree assault in connection with the knockout punch that put Vander Lee on life support.

The charges allege Clifford punched Brian Vander Lee during a June 16 dispute over a cell phone conversation on the patio of Tanner's Station. The altercation was caught on surveillance video taken with a cell phone camera, which shows Clifford approaching and punching Vander Lee in the mouth shortly thereafter.

Bruno told FOX 9 News he feels the charges were upgraded in retaliation for his client maintaining his innocence.

Bruno also said Vander Lee was drunk, registering a .189 blood-alcohol concentration at the time. He contends that the brawl was instigated by intoxicated man who had been causing a disturbance.

"We believe [the video] shows Sgt. Clifford did nothing wrong. In fact, he was responding to very aggressive behavior," Bruno said.

Yet, not everyone sees it that way. Mike Archambault, who is Brian Vander Lee's best friend, said he's shocked at the conclusions Clifford's attorney drew from the footage.

"I've watched that video countless times," he said. "I don't see what he's talking about."

Archambault, who didn't want to talk about that night, said he's just as shocked as he was when it first happened.

"I don't know what to say," he said. "It speaks for itself."

Since the patio punch, Archambault has been planning a benefit for his friend, who is at home recovering from three surgeries.

"He's doing better every day -- good as can be, I suppose," Archambault told FOX 9 News.

Yet, Vander Lee was the sole provider for his family -- and with four girls at home and mounting medical bills, Archambault said he knows his friend needs help. That's why he's organized a benefit for the family that will take place on July 28 between 4 p.m. and 1 a.m. at Jr's Outpost Bar & Grille in Ramsey.

There will also be a bike run that starts at 9 a.m. and will begin at 10:30 a.m. The event will also feature live music between 6 and 8 p.m., and a silent auction is planned.

Cash donations can also be made to the Brian Vander Lee Benefit Fund at any TCF Bank Location.

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