By Samantha Michaels
As the year 1990 came to an end, a fight broke out during a New Year’s Eve celebration at the Juke Box Saturday Night bar in downtown Minneapolis. A 21-year-old white student grabbed Michael Sauro from behind. Sauro, an off-duty white police officer working as a bouncer, handcuffed the man, dragged him to the kitchen, and then repeatedly drove his steel-toed paratrooper boots into his groin and head.
Sauro had been a cop for 15 years and had a long record of citizen complaints against him, most of them about excessive force. “I was dealing with animals,” he would later tell a reporter when asked about the people he’d beaten. “I mean, my dog is more human than them.” But he had never been disciplined. Four years after the bar fight, a court found that Sauro had used excessive force against the student, and it awarded $700,000 to him, then the largest civil award settlement in the city’s history. By then, Sauro had racked up 32 citizen complaints, though none had been sustained. The mayor finally fired him.