The St. Paul police sergeant widely criticized by the public, his own department, an industry group and the mayor for a Facebook comment encouraging drivers to run over marchers on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day apparently posted similar antagonistic comments three months earlier.
Sgt. Jeffrey Rothecker issued a statement Wednesday admitting to writing, "Run them over. Keep traffic flowing and don't slow down for any of these idiots who try and block the street," regarding the MLK Day march seeking justice for two men shot by police. Rothecker apologized for his actions, but he failed to mention a similar, previous exchange he allegedly had that is now making the rounds on Twitter.
Becky Zosia Dernbach, communications director for Minnesota Neighborhoods Organizing for Change (MNNOC), posted a screen shot on Twitter of the Nov. 16 exchange between Communities Against Police Brutality (CUAPB), a citizen and a man named "JM Roth," the same user name behind the MLK Day post. The exchange occurred on the MNNOC Facebook page, according to Dernbach's tweet.
The exchange clearly centers on marchers blocking streets.
"They should've ran them over," JM Roth posts. "Obviously their parents never taught them not to play on the highway. If drivers would've just kept driving, any idiot that wants to talk onto the highway and risk getting hit, it's their fault and not that of the driver. F BLM [Black Lives Matter], Community United Against Police Brutality (CUAPB) and any others that support what they are doing."
CUAPB responds: "You have no idea what you are talking about. CUAPB has not endorsed this action nor did we participate. We believe in actions that target decision-makers, not innocent motorists. Nonetheless, the real crime is what happened to Jamar Clark."
A citizen quotes JM Roth, " 'Any idiot that wants to walk on the highway and risk getting hit, it's their fault and not the drivers,' " and responds, "I think you need to brush up on Minnesota traffic law."
JM Roth responds to CUAPB: "Really, because you were out blocking streets last night right along with BLM [Black Lives Matter]. You're also great at blocking peoples (sic) right to free speech on your FB page, especially people who have proved you wrong in the past."
JM Roth then responds to the citizen: "Actually, no it's false. That's why there are signs near on ramps that state no pedestrian traffic. That's why those protesters were arrested for pedestrians on a freeway and unlawful assembly. Time for you to bone up on MN traffic laws."
"It still would've been illegal to hit them with your car," the citizen says.
"Nope, as long as you stop and speak with police it is not illegal," JM Roth responds. "So try again."
MNNOC tries to calm the discussion.
"We don't allow posts on our page that call for violence, including hitting protestors with cars, so we're taking this comment down," MNNOC posts.
The tone and content of JM Roth's comments are similar to the Facebook post regarding the MLK Day, Jr. march. In the more recent post, Rothecker commented under a Pioneer Press article about the march, which involved citizens converging in the middle of the Marshall Avenue-Lake Street bridge over the Mississippi River. They demonstrated on behalf of Jamar Clark and Marcus Golden, who were killed by Minneapolis and St. Paul police, respectively.
St. Paul police spokesman Steve Linders said Thursday that he could neither confirm nor deny whether the officer placed on paid leave for the MLK, Jr. Day Facebook post is being investigated for previous Facebook comments. Details about pending personnel investigations are protected under Minnesota law.
Citizen police watchdog Andrew Henderson reported Rothecker's most recent Facebook comment to police.
Police have confirmed that an officer was placed on paid administrative leave because of a Facebook post, but could not specify the post nor identify the officer due to legal protections. While noting that the case remains under investigation, both the department and Mayor Chris Coleman released statements Monday condemning the Facebook comment.
Rothecker identified himself as the officer behind the MLK, Jr. Day post in a news release issued Wednesday by St. Paul Police Federation spokesman Carl Kuhl.
An excerpt of Rothecker's statement read: "I am extremely sorry for what I did, I understand that the post was insensitive and wrong. My poor choice of words conveyed a message I did not intend and am not proud of."
Kuhl said Thursday that the federation is looking into the new allegations. Neither the federation nor Rothecker had statements to share through Kuhl.
Rothecker could not be reached for comment.
Coleman issued a second statement Wednesday about the incident, saying, "I continue to be outraged by the online comments."
Records show that there have been 15 complaints filed against Rothecker with the department's internal affairs unit. Seven of the complaints resulted in discipline.