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Thirty years later, one of four men convicted in police officer’s murder is up for supervised release

Thirty years after Minneapolis Police Officer Jerry Haaf was shot lifeless by gang members whereas he was sitting in a Lake Street pizza store, one of the men convicted of the crime faces a listening to Tuesday to contemplate whether or not he might obtain a supervised release must be granted – a end result which is rejected by a number of police officers.

Amwati Pepi Mckenzie, who was 19 on the time of the taking pictures, was sentenced to 30 years in jail together with three different younger men belonging to the Vice Lords road gang. The execution-style murder was one of essentially the most stunning murders in the town’s historical past.

Mckenzie, now 49 and being held at Lino Lakes State Penitentiary, is anticipated to be questioned through video by Correctional Commissioner Paul Schnell on Tuesday. Quickly, Mckenzie will overview jail information and psychiatric evaluations and converse with members of Haaf’s household.

After listening to an advisory board, Schnell will make his resolution.

“I take this part of the commissioner’s role very seriously,” Schnell stated. “We balance public safety and community contribution and the rehabilitation efforts of the person being considered for parole. Public safety is the dominant consideration.”

Mckenzie’s supporters say he is come a protracted technique to higher himself. Abena McKenzie, of Yuba City, California, stated her cousin has a school diploma. He has self-published 5 books – three city mysteries, one e-book of poetic reflections and one philosophical work – that are listed on Amazon.

Pepi Mckenzie expressed his regret over Haaf’s killing in an creator’s observe to his 2021 e-book The Osirian Archtype on Amazon’s web site.

“I was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison to 30 years for the role I played in unjustly taking the life of another human being,” he wrote. “It was a tragedy for which I feel remorse and deeply regret it. … I’ll pay my price and I’ll spend the rest of my days repairing the damage I’ve caused.”

He added that he is dedicated to encouraging others to desert the delinquent behaviors he as soon as embraced and undertake “prosocial” behaviors to assist them “refocus and reach their full potential.” . He turned down a request to be interviewed by the Star Tribune.

When Mckenzie was sentenced in 1993, state legislation allowed for a doable 30-year release. In 2015, lawmakers made the first-degree murder of a police officer a life sentence with no chance of parole – however since that wasn’t in impact in 1993, it does not apply to his case.

The murder

At round 1:30 am on September 25, 1992, two gunmen burst into the Pizza Shack, a gathering place for police officers, and shot and killed Haaf whereas he was sitting at a desk studying a newspaper. He was on a break in the center of an evening shift.

Haaf was capable of radio a dispatcher: “Officer below.” When shift lieutenant Mike Sauro arrived a couple of minutes later, he stated he might see Haaf’s wounds had been deadly. Today, Sauro insists Mckenzie stays behind bars.

“I think there should have been the death penalty,” Sauro stated.

Four younger men had been arrested in the crime together with a youth believed to be one of the drivers. Prosecutors claimed the killing was a gang-inspired conspiracy to settle alleged mistreatment of a blind black man on a Metro Transit bus the day earlier than.

The four men had been convicted and the youth served a number of years in jail earlier than being launched. Convicted together with Mckenzie had been AC Ford, who modified his identify to Adl El-shabazz, now 56 and imprisoned till not less than 2036; Montery Trymaine Willis, now 55, jailed till not less than 2036; and Shannon Bowles, who modified his identify to Nantambu Noah Kambon, now 50. He can be reviewed for doable release on January 4.

Mckenzie, who declined to testify, was discovered responsible of first diploma accent to murder. He was acquitted of premeditated murder of Haaf and tried murder for injuring one other restaurant-goer. He was represented by Twin Cities attorneys Art Martinez and Mike McGlennen, each of whom say he must be launched now.

“We proved in court that he wasn’t the shooter,” Martinez stated. “His clothes didn’t match the shooter. … He is a helper and an instigator, and from what I’ve heard he was doing very well while he was in prison.”

McGlennen, who is now retired, stated Mckenzie checked out Haaf’s household throughout the trial and “told me he didn’t care if they convicted him because he could see their pain”.

“Towards the end of the trial I told Pepi he was too smart to go to the Pizza Shack,” McGlennen stated, including that Mckenzie replied, “You’re proper. I used to be the lookout.”

Former Hennepin Assistant District Attorney Robert Streitz, who prosecuted the case involving the late George Widseth, took a markedly completely different view.

“Pepi Mckenzie was one of the two armed men,” stated Streitz. “Pepi and Shannon Bowles. They both went inside. They both had guns, and they knew cops went there on their breaks, and the purpose of their going in was to shake things up in town by getting their gang a name. Their clothing was found at another gang member’s home and matches the description of what witnesses said they were wearing.”

Streitz stated that McKenzie and Bowles ought to by no means be launched.

“These had been individuals who got here up with a plan to kill a cop and went there and did simply that.

Different views

Cindy Haaf Benson, Haaf’s daughter, urged folks on Facebook to put in writing to corrections officers who oppose Mckenzie’s supervised release.

“Those cowards shot [Haaf] in the back just months before his retirement,” she wrote. “They killed him, not because [of] who he was, but because [of] what he was. A policeman! … The Haaf family was sentenced to life imprisonment without her husband, father and grandfather.” The Star Tribune couldn’t attain Benson for remark.

Brian Peters, government director of the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association, additionally agrees Mckenzie shouldn’t be fired.

“Cold-blooded killers of public safety officers are rightly sentenced to life imprisonment and shall never be considered for release,” he stated in an announcement.

Former Minneapolis Police Chief Tony Bouza known as the taking pictures “a horrific crime” and stated Mckenzie needed to present he’d grow to be “a better person” earlier than he could be thought-about for release. But John Laux, who was police chief on the time of Haaf’s murder, stated he ought to stay locked up.

“The intention was to go to the Pizza Shack on 17th Avenue and the Lake — to look for a cop,” Laux stated.

Spike Moss, then head of City Inc. — a controversial Minneapolis program that labored with gang members to curb road violence — stated that if Mckenzie has been serving his time beneath the legislation, “they have to let him go.”

Local NAACP official Yusef Mgeni, who was City Inc.’s chief government officer, stated correctional officers wanted to take a look at Mckenzie’s document. “If he tried to change his life, that should be taken into account,” Mgeni stated.

Schnell, a former St. Paul police officer who has served as chief of two suburban subway police departments, should steadiness two competing burdens, stated Joseph Daly, professor emeritus at Mitchell Hamline School of Law.

“I have no doubt that he is receiving letters from the police and many people in the prison community saying, ‘Do not release this person, they have committed a heinous act,'” he stated. “Also, I have no doubt that he gets letters from family, friends and people who know this guy saying his life has changed.”

Library staffer John Wareham did the analysis for this report.

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