In memory of Fong Lee
And for the Lee family, and the Justice for Fong Lee committee
In 2006, Minneapolis Police Officer Jason Andersen shot and killed Fong Lee, a 19-year old Hmong American. Andersen was awarded a Medal of Valor, though the Lee family and community members allege that Fong Lee was unarmed and the gun found on the scene was planted by police. During a foot chase in North Minneapolis, Andersen shot at Lee 9 times, 1 bullet missing, the other 8 hitting Fong Lee as he ran and as he lay dying on the ground.
Community members point out that accusations about Fong Lee’s history and character, specifically allegations that he was in a gang, were allowed in court and written about in the press. But Officer Andersen’s alleged dislike of Asians and history of derogatory remarks against Asians was neither allowed in court nor written about in the press.
One of the devil’s greatest powers
Is to force you to take a deal
That he himself would never take.
Fong Lee was 19 (gang member). I can imagine him (gang member) and his (gang member) family. They are eating (gang member) something that steams and it does not steam like food from this (gang member) country, the smell lingers (gang member) like home. It is Minnesota so (gang member) the lights inside no matter how dim somehow makes (gang member) all indoor rooms feel warm. Now its summer and he’s fishing with his (gang member) friends. They (gang member) get on bikes and their (gang member) legs drape low, (gang member), arms lazy crosses on the handlebars. Their heads lean as they debate the Minnesota Vikings (gang member) and the Minnesota Twins, slapping absently at the logos (gang member) on their caps and (gang member) shirts.
Officer Jason Andersen (hero) shot Hmong American teenager Fong Lee eight times (to serve and protect). A bullet wound in Fong Lee’s hand suggests the teenager may have held his hands up in surrender (decorated officer) as Officer Andersen (white) shot (Medal of Valor) him. Andersen was also charged with domestic assault (peace officer) by his girlfriend though charges were later dropped (officer of the law). Officer Andersen (police officer) was also accused of kicking (hero) an African American teenager who was on the ground in handcuffs in 2008.
An all-white jury found Officer Anderson not guilty of using excessive force.
Put a blindfold on me
Tell me who you fear
And I will tell you
I’m wondering when people will care.
If we made your story into a movie about killing dolphins, perhaps.
I’m 18 and the brutal cold holsters my hands into the warm solace of my jacket pockets. The police officer snaps his hand to his gun. My pockets are empty. My hands open. Still. My story would have ended in smoke and red snow. If my body lay there, perforated, would I bleed through holes in his story?
Lost, you turn the car around and see trees stretching up like greenbrown fencing up to the blue skies. For a moment you think that woods stretch forever, somewhere close a bubbling stream whispers white kisses across worn rocks, a deer leans its neck down to drink, the velvet moss of a hushed secret world here in your city. But just beyond the neck of scrub trees is the hint of chain-link, the distant ghost silhouette of strip mall, just one step past the shadows of those leaves are railroad tracks running like stitches over broken glass and gravel.
Minnesota Nice: this city hides its scars so well.
All our lives, men with guns.
Chased, in the womb, in the arms
Of our parents.
Chased, all our lives,
By men with guns.
In the womb, in our parent’s arms
Chased by men with guns.
Michael Cho. Cau Thi Bich Tran. John T. Williams.
Tycel Nelson. Oscar Grant. Fong Lee.
May your names be the hymn
wind that sways
police bullets to miss.