Watch CBS News

Lawsuit says Hennepin County failed to act in former sheriff's racist, sexist and violent acts

Hennepin County Sheriff's Office facing lawsuit over mishandling of former Sheriff Dave Hutchinson's
Hennepin County Sheriff's Office facing lawsuit over mishandling of former Sheriff Dave Hutchinson's 02:04

MINNEAPOLIS — A new lawsuit claims Hennepin County refused to address a former sheriff's alleged racist and discriminatory behavior.

Seven current and former members of the sheriff's office filed the suit, including current Sheriff Dawanna Witt.

"This case is about the failure of the county to provide a safe work environment free of discrimination and retaliation," said attorney Steve Smith, who is representing the plaintiffs.

A more than 40-page complaint lays out the alleged actions of former Hennepin County Sheriff Dave Hutchinson. The documents detail events beginning nearly five years ago, in the summer of 2019.

According to the documents, the former sheriff regularly used derogatory language such as "hood rat," "gorilla," "faggot," and "pedophile."

"Hutchinson was also openly vindictive and threatened to fire and talked about harming people who crossed him often while wielding his county issued weapon," said Smith.

"Several of us feared that we were literally sitting ducks and that Hutchinson would come through the door and open fire on us while we were in the sheriff's office," said Tim Stout, Chief of Staff for Hennepin County Sheriff's Office.

Stout, who is one of the plaintiffs, said he feared for not only his safety, but also his family's, going to the lengths of having another sheriff's office provide protection at his home a few years ago.

"There's nobody in the private or the public sector that would put up with what we had to encounter in any traditional workplace," said Witt.

The complaint states Hutchinson "regularly engaged in racist conduct," and that "Hutchinson referred to Witt as a 'hood rat.'"

The county is responding, with a spokesperson writing that their administration took prompt action once they were alerted to these claims.

The spokesperson also said that Hennepin County worked diligently to address former Sheriff Hutchinson's conduct and will vigorously defend against claims they failed to act.

"Racism, discrimination and retaliation and violence have no place in Hennepin County and no place in any workplace in Minnesota," said Smith.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.