Minnesota city settles suit with woman who filmed cops drawing guns on Black motorists

Amy Koopman said she wanted to livestream the encounter on Facebook to guarantee the safety of the two Black men and impose consequences on the police.

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A white woman who was charged after recording police pulling their firearms on Black motorists during a traffic stop in 2018 has settled her case with a Minnesota city for $70,000.

According to the Star Tribune, Amy Koopman filed a lawsuit against the city of Robbinsdale and officers Christine Allen, Joshua Heasley and Nicole Saba. She previously faced a misdemeanor charge of obstructing the justice system after she livestreamed officers who had pulled over a car and approached it with guns drawn.

Koopman was reportedly a member of a group that assembled at a nearby intersection to observe the encounter. The police instructed the bystanders to leave so they would not be in the line of fire. 

Amy Koopman settles lawsuit
Amy Koopman has settled a lawsuit with the city of Robbinsdale, Minnesota, after she faced misdemeanor charges for livestreaming a police encounter involving two Black motorists in 2018. (Photo Credit: YouTube/ACLU Minnesota)

She hollered for police to put away their weapons, and after the men were arrested, she was cited for obstruction. A judge in Hennepin County subsequently dismissed her charges after concluding that no reasonable officer could view her shouting as physically blocking or interfering in the performance of their duties.

“The ability to record police, stand witness and hold police misconduct up to public scrutiny is critical to help stop killings by police and over-policing,” said American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota staff attorney David McKinney, who represented Koopman in her lawsuit, the Star Tribune reported. “This settlement sends a clear message to law enforcement across our state that cracking down on people’s constitutional rights to record or speak to police is bad public policy, and will not be tolerated.”

Court records claim that Heasley stopped the car after reading its license plates and discovering that the registered owner was wanted for felony first-degree burglary. Allen and Saba joined him at the traffic stop. The city’s reply to Koopman’s lawsuit claims that police safely took the two individuals into custody.

Following the dismissal of her misdemeanor criminal complaint in 2019, Koopman, a church secretary and seminary student at the time of the encounter, filed a lawsuit against the city.

City attorney Jason Hively said Robbinsdale and its insurer, the League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust, agreed to pay Koopman in exchange for her releasing the city and its police officers from her lawsuit. He added that settling the case out of court would minimize the attorneys’ fees and expenditures involved with going to trial.

The city consented to nonfinancial terms on guidelines, protocols and training, according to Hively.

Per the settlement, the Robbinsdale Police Department must develop regulations that codify onlookers’ rights to observe and record police activity while prohibiting officers from retaliating against bystanders who do so or who verbally criticize the action. There also has to be a policy subjecting officers who break the law or disregard departmental policy to discipline, up to and including termination.

In addition to the ACLU of Minnesota, pro bono attorneys from the Bass Law Firm and Forsgren Fisher McCalmont DeMarea Tysver represented Koopman in the lawsuit. She said she wanted to livestream the encounter on Facebook to guarantee the safety of the two Black men involved and impose consequences on the police.

“I am proud and humbled to have been able to hold their feet to the fire and push them as far as we did toward reformation and reparation,” Koopman said, according to the Star Tribune. “I hope this puts other police departments on notice that there are citizens who are filming them, holding them to account, and who will fight them for as long as it takes to ensure that people’s rights are upheld.”

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