By Matt Furber and Will Wright
Sunday January 3, 2021
The father of a 23-year-old man killed by Minneapolis police officers learned of his son’s death only after police officers searched his home in the middle of the night.
Dolal Idd, right, was fatally shot by the Minneapolis police on Wednesday.Credit...Family Photo
MINNEAPOLIS — Bayle Gelle said he awoke in the middle of the night to the sound of his wife screaming. He plunged shirtless down the stairs and found her in the living room, being confronted by sheriff’s deputies.
The officers turned their guns toward him, he said, and they were barking orders that he struggled to understand.Mr. Gelle, who came to the United States in 1997 from a war-torn Somalia, would be told later that night that his 23-year-old son, Dolal Idd, had been shot and killed just hours before by police officers in a gas station parking lot, in nearby Minneapolis.
The fatal police shooting on Wednesday night was the first in Minneapolis since the killing of George Floyd in May, which led to hundreds of protests across the country and an outpouring of calls for police reform. But as Mr. Gelle sat on the floor that night, his wrists restrained in plastic handcuffs, he had no idea that his son had been killed.
The Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement that its deputies had acted “professionally and politely and followed procedure” as they executed a search warrant on the home in Eden Prairie, a suburb of Minneapolis.
Body camera footage of the search, which the Sheriff’s Office released on Saturday night, showed several officers yelling, “Police, search warrant!” and “Let me see your hands!” as they poured through the front door.
Mr. Gelle could be seen coming down the stairs, his hands held aloft as an officer pointed a gun at him. The family assembled on the living room floor, some protesting and weeping, as the officers began to search the house.
Some family members spoke in their native language, saying, “Allahu Akbar,” or “God is the greatest,” through their tears.
“Based on the video I’ve reviewed, I am proud of the professionalism displayed by our Deputies during the execution of this search warrant,” said the sheriff, David Hutchinson.
Mr. Gelle, whose eldest son was born the same year he arrived in the United States, said he had first settled in San Diego but had then moved to the Minneapolis area, where other members of his family were already living.
In an interview, Mr. Gelle said he was working as a businessman in the city, and that his eldest son was taking classes at a local community college.
On the night of the search, Mr. Gelle said, the deputies shouted at him and his younger children, ages 4, 7 and 9, who had followed him downstairs, but he did not understand who the deputies were or why they had come.
He said his 18-year-old son and his 19-year-old daughter had also been in the house and had been restrained by the deputies.
The younger children were not placed in handcuffs but were crying amid the chaos, Mr. Gelle said. He said the deputies had neither showed him the warrant nor told him what they were looking for at first, but the shouting from the officers as they arrived was frightening, he said.
“I never heard that voice, how it really scared us,” he said. “That voice, it came from a wild animal. It’s not like human. It’s not any respect.”
Only as the officers were making their exit, Mr. Gelle said, did they tell him that his son had been killed.
The shooting occurred much earlier that night, at about 6:15 p.m., when officers stopped Mr. Idd in his car at a gas station in the Powderhorn neighborhood of Minneapolis. The police said later that officers had suspected that he had a weapon.
Body camera footage of the episode shows several police cruisers attempting to box in Mr. Idd as he tries to pull away in a white sedan. His tires struggle for traction in the snow-covered parking lot, and his car is quickly surrounded.
The footage then shows the driver’s side window exploding outward, suggesting that Mr. Idd fired at the officers. One officer curses and ducks for cover before he and at least one other officer begin to fire into the vehicle. A gun was later found in the car, the police said.
Police officers and city officials said that Mr. Idd had shot first, but activists who have protested the shooting, along with the family, maintain that the footage is unclear.
Mr. Gelle said that he had dined with his son earlier that day and that Mr. Idd had left the house in a good mood. He said he had no knowledge of his son’s owning or carrying a gun.
Officers said they had searched the family home about eight hours after the shooting to determine whether Mr. Idd had any additional weapons there.
In a statement, the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office said deputies had arrived at the house at about 2:15 a.m. to conduct a “knock and announce,” a high-risk search warrant.
The officers announced themselves multiple times, saying that they were there as part of an official search of the residence, according to the statement. The department said it was regular procedure to handcuff all adults while executing high-risk search warrants.
Andy Skoogman, a spokesman for the Sheriff’s Office, said the operation had been labeled high-risk because the earlier shooting had given officers reason to believe that there might be weapons in the home.
Jill Oliveira, a spokeswoman for the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, said that officers had removed the handcuffs after about 15 minutes, when bureau officers began the search.
The late-night encounter with the sheriff’s deputies has left the family uneasy in their own home, Mr. Gelle said. The children, he said, have asked him if “those crazy bullies, are they going to come back?” He tells them he doesn’t know.
Jamal Hassan, Mr. Gelle’s cousin, said the family was “terrorized” by the search and are struggling to understand what happened.
“We lost our son,” he said. “Regardless of what he was doing and what he did. We just want to be respected, his life to be respected, our dignity, our pain.”
Matt Furber reported from Minneapolis and Will Wright reported from Louisville, Ky. Sheelagh McNeill contributed research.