By The Vanguard Staff
DULUTH, MN – In a lawsuit filed this past week, Aaron Kirk and his family claim continued discrimination and racial profiling occur in Duluth “based solely on Aaron Kirk’s race, his interracial marriage, and the Kirk family’s presence in a predominantly white neighborhood,” according to a story in TheGrio.
In news reports, Kirk claims he encountered over 100 run-ins with police in 10 years.
Police arrested Kirk in front of his West Duluth house on July 10, 2020, following a road rage episode with a truck driver who continuously used racial slurs and threatened him, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.
“Dashboard camera footage shows Aaron Kirk in the back seat of Duluth police officer Sara Schultee’s vehicle attempting to comprehend how he ended up in too-tight shackles in a squad car. The officer reassures him that they cited the other motorist,” said TheGrio.
“[Police officers] are telling me to back up and I’m screaming and you can hear it in my voice — my voice is breaking,” said Grace Kirk to the Star-Tribune as she recorded her father’s arrest, noting she wasn’t doing it “in anger — in fear and terror, like I’m going to lose my dad,” referencing George Floyd’s death.
The lawsuit, according to TheGrio, asserts that Aaron Kirk’s arrest is the most serious of the more than 100 encounters he has had with local law enforcement since the mid-2000s. Named in the case are 12 defendants, including, the city of Duluth, police chief Mike Ceynowa, former police chief Gordon Ramsay and the other driver involved in the 2020 road rage incident.
“The Kirks — requesting compensatory and punitive damages and legal fees — claim continued discrimination and racial profiling occur in Duluth ‘based solely on Aaron Kirk’s race, his interracial marriage, and the Kirk family’s presence in a predominantly white neighborhood,’” said TheGrio account.
“Aaron Kirk’s wife, Amy Kirk, who is white, claimed she had a cordial relationship with her then-next-door neighbors when she first moved to the neighborhood in 2003, but that was before Aaron Kirk joined her two years later,” added TheGrio.
The complaint states the neighbors called 911 numerous times over “false and baseless accusations.”
TheGrio story noted, “Neighbors allegedly reported the Kirks’ home was a methamphetamine lab after calling the police twice because they smelled a chemical odor coming from the residence. On another occasion, they said they believed Aaron Kirk was planning to steal construction materials. When neighbors dispatched an officer in 2011 in response to an allegation that the Kirks’ house had a strong marijuana odor, the officer’s notes showed that there was no scent and nobody was home.”
Police frequently determined that the neighbors’ concerns were unjustified, according to the lawsuit, noting a meeting between city officials and the Kirks occurred in November 2008, but officials took no action.
TheGrio story said, “During the road rage incident, police held Aaron Kirk in the St. Louis County Jail over the weekend. All accusations against him — which included assault with a deadly weapon and eluding police officers — were dropped.”
“I still don’t know why my husband spent four days” in jail, Amy Kirk said, the Tribune reported.
Kirk said to news media he “feels closely watched and supervised, forcing him to routinely close the drapes in their home. He added that it’s exhausting and impacting his connection with this family and his mental health.”
TheGrio said the “lawsuit comes while the Boston-based Crime and Justice Institute conducts a racial bias audit of the Duluth Police Department. The ongoing poll, inspired by a community petition, looks at police practices, data from traffic stops, and opinions on transparency and racial prejudice, among other things.”
The complaint states that the defendants did nothing to halt the fraudulent reports, which persisted and worsened, noted TheGrio story.