Ex-Minneapolis cop sentenced for knockout punch at Andover bar - FOX 32 News Chicago

Ex-Minneapolis cop sentenced for knockout punch at Andover bar

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David Clifford David Clifford
Brian Vander Lee in the hospital Brian Vander Lee in the hospital
Surveillance video shows Sgt. David Clifford punching Brian Vander Lee Surveillance video shows Sgt. David Clifford punching Brian Vander Lee
ANOKA, Minn. (KMSP) -

Former Minneapolis police Sgt. David Clifford was  sentenced Thursday for punching-out an Andover, Minn. bar patron last summer.

On Thursday afternoon, Clifford was sentenced to 43 months in prison, or roughly 3.5 years. He must serve at least 2 years and 3 months at a minimum.

The former Minneapolis SWAT officer faced a potential seven years in prison for the attack. Family and friends of the victim told FOX 9 News they had hoped he would receive more time.

Mich Archambault, a close friend of victim Brian Vander Lee, described the sentence as "light."

"Forty-three months and Brian's sentence is life," Archambault said. "We don't even know what the long-term effects are going to be."

Archambault said his friend struggles daily with tasks that wouldn't normally have hindered him, but he also said the family does not harbor resentment against Clifford, a decorated officer, member of the SWAT team and military member.

"Brian ... hasn't had one bad thing to say about David Clifford. Not one," he told FOX 9 News. "He doesn't harbor any resentment towards him. He just wishes everything was back to normal and it didn't happen, but unfortunately, it did."

In court, Clifford spent several minutes in and repeatedly apologized, saying, "First and most importantly, I was wrong. I'm not asking for your forgiveness. I thought every day of you and your children." 

Clifford also told the judge he plans to serve his time honorably, and that he hopes his actions do not reflect poorly on law enforcement as a whole in the eyes of the public.

"It is unfortunate that an uncontrolled temper led to such severe injuries and today's sentencing," said Anoka County Attorney Tony Palumbo. "It has changed the lives of the victim and the defendant, as well as their families. I hope this brings closure to the victim and everyone else involved in the case."

In April, a jury found Clifford, 48, guilty of three assault charges stemming from the June 16, 2012 incident at Tanners Station.

During the trial, Clifford told the jury he was not looking for problems on the afternoon he cold-clocked Brian Vander Lee to the patio concrete and ran off, turning himself in 19 hours later.

The punch left Vander Lee in a coma, requiring three brain surgeries. The prosecution said Vander Lee will never be the same.

The defense claimed Vander Lee was profane and loud, so Clifford asked him to quiet down. They claim Vander Lee was preparing to stand with a clenched fist when Clifford threw the punch.

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