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Mpls. Police Officer Charged With 3rd Degree Assault

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(credit: CBS) Rachel Slavik
Rachel Slavik joined the WCCO team in October of 2010 and is thrill...
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A Minneapolis police officer faces third-degree felony assault charges after punching a man at an Andover bar.

The incident happened early Saturday night at Tanner’s Station.

According to the criminal complaint, Sgt. David Clifford took offense to some language Brian Vander Lee was using at a nearby table.

Vander Lee is now on life support. Pictures taken by family show a black eye and swelling around his head. He’s had two surgeries and remains in a medically induced coma.

The photographs capture what will likely be a long road to recovery. It is a stark contrast to the incident that sent him to Mercy Hospital.

“I don’t know if anything would warrant that kind of attack,” said Mike Archambault, Vander Lee’s friend.

Archambault was just arriving to Tanner’s Station and was talking on the phone with his best friend, Vander Lee.

“He started to say something and the phone conversation just went dead,” said Archambault.

Vander Lee had just been knocked unconscious with a single punch. Archambault watched the surveillance video of the attack and says it was unprovoked.

Clifford told investigators that he asked Vander Lee to stop using the offensive language, but confronted him again, when it didn’t stop.

In the complaint, Clifford said he thought Vander Lee was going to hit him, so he threw the first punch.

“I still have a hard time believing that, a sergeant,” said Archambault.

Clifford is a nearly 20-year veteran of the Minneapolis Police Department.

“I feel bad for every police department, because you get one guy that does some crap like this, it gives them all a bad name,” said Archambault.

Sgt. Clifford is on paid administrative leave. He was off-duty Saturday night. Minneapolis police wouldn’t comment but did send out a tweet outlining Clifford’s numerous awards.

Clifford admitted he did not answer the door when officers tried to contact him.

The criminal complaint also says no employees heard Vander Lee using offensive language and there were no other complaints.

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