Minneapolis firefighters returned Tuesday to the burned-out remains of a Lake Street liquor store to search for a body after witnesses reported that a man didn’t make it out when the building was torched during last week’s riots in the wake of George Floyd’s death.
Crews inspected the twisted heap of metal at the intersection of Minnehaha Avenue and E. Lake Street once more, but their efforts were short-lived.
“Due to the condition of the building, a thorough search is no longer possible,” said Assistant Fire Chief for Operations Bryan Tyner.
Before curfew Saturday, bystanders assessing the wreckage outside the 3rd Precinct in south Minneapolis stopped to watch two good Samaritans thrashing through the rubble of Minnehaha Liquors, searching for the body of a man they believe is buried in debris.
Onlookers heard the art deco building collapse just before midnight Thursday, after being ravaged by flames. Several bystanders yelled that someone hadn’t it made out in time.
Brandon Wolfe quickly grabbed an ax and bashed it against the shop’s frame trying to reach the person, but was pushed back by flames. Whomever was trapped would not make it out alive.
Wolfe returned Saturday and, along with a stranger, continued to search, sifting through mangled iron and aluminum that had collapsed to the basement level.
Minneapolis police and firefighters scoured the rubble Friday night after receiving a report about the man trapped inside. But a name for the man was never provided and first responders found no trace of him, authorities said.
Tyner was not aware that citizens kept that search alive until contacted by a Star Tribune reporter. He cautioned against anymore do-gooders climbing down into the debris.
“I’d rather have them call us so we can assume the risk. It’s dangerous,” Tyner said, adding that many of the buildings destroyed during last week’s riots have become unstable.
Over the weekend, disaster tourists leaned past the liquor store’s skeletal remains, still slung with caution tape, to watch the men sift through concrete blocks, charred beer cans and metal signage.
Ray “Spider-Man” Evans, an amateur MMA fighter from Lincoln, Neb., came to town in solidarity with those protesting George Floyd’s death. But he jumped in the pile to help, where a small fire still flickered and spat smoke.
From the sidewalk above, a growing group of supporters offered praise and tossed them water bottles as they worked, then cleaned and wrapped a cut on Wolfe’s wrist when he emerged from the rubble. No body was ever found.
Ramiro Aguilar, a former Minnehaha Liquors employee whose brother still works there, lingered nearby to assess the damage of the store where he worked for 17 years.
“It’s so sad to see it this way,” said Aguilar, of south Minneapolis. The neighborhood joint handed out lollipops to children, including his own when they were young. “There’s a lot of good memories there.”