Jacob Frey has been cast as the mayor who lost control of his city, enduring criticism from the state’s governor that the Minneapolis response to rioting in May over the police killing of George Floyd was an “abject failure.”
Now Frey is speaking out, saying Gov. Tim Walz failed to take his requests for help seriously until it was too late.
In an interview Monday, Frey said that Walz hesitated to send in the National Guard to quell the growing violence and then blamed him for allowing the city to burn.
“Through an extremely difficult situation, I told the truth,” Frey said Monday. “I relayed information as best I could to state partners. And we did what was demanded for the sake of our city.”
Texts and e-mails obtained from Minneapolis by the Star Tribune through public records requests show the city was trying to give Walz and the state Department of Public Safety what they said they needed to move forward.
State officials, meanwhile, said the city did not provide the detailed information they needed to deploy the Guard until the next day. By then, dozens of buildings had been looted and torched.
On Wednesday, May 27, the second evening of unrest around the Third Precinct, Frey said Police Chief Medaria Arradondo called him at 6:23 p.m. to say that the Target store near the police station was being looted and that he needed the National Guard.
Frey said he immediately telephoned Walz, at 6:29 p.m., relayed information, and asked him to send in the National Guard. “We expressed the seriousness of the situation. The urgency was clear,” Frey said.
“He did not say yes,” Frey said of Walz. “He said he would consider it.”
Frey insisted that he explicitly asked whether his verbal requests constituted a formal request, and the governor’s staff confirmed that they did. The governor’s office disputes that.
The documents, released by the city late last week, corroborate this sequence of events.
They show that at 6:28 p.m. Wednesday, Frey’s spokesman, Mychal Vlatkovich, texted a small group of employees in the mayor’s office: “Mayor just came out and said the chief wants him to call in the national guard for help at Third Precinct. Mayor appears intent on doing.” Frey’s policy director, Heidi Ritchie, later updated the group: “He called the governor just now.”
In a separate text conversation later Wednesday night, Vlaktovich said Frey indicated “Walz was hesitating.”
Frey said he received no confirmation the National Guard was coming the rest of Wednesday night or the following morning.
A city news release about his request for the Guard was drafted Wednesday but never sent.
Frey first revealed to the Star Tribune that he had asked for the Guard at 11:30 p.m. that night.
At 10:55 a.m. Thursday, Frey’s office followed up with a written request for the National Guard, noting “widespread looting and arson” and that protesters and first responders had been injured.
“The ongoing situation is well-beyond the capability of our police and fire departments to respond,” Frey wrote.
Walz was not available for an interview Monday, according to his office.
Walz spokesman Teddy Tschann said more information was needed to deploy the soldiers.
“As a 24-year veteran of the Minnesota National Guard, Governor Walz knows how much planning goes into a successful mission,” Tschann said in a statement. “That’s why he pushed the City of Minneapolis for details and a strategy. He ordered the Minnesota National Guard to start preparing Thursday morning which allowed them to deploy to both St. Paul and Minneapolis that evening, per the Mayors’ requests.”
The governor’s office disputed several of Frey’s assertions. According to the office: The Governor’s staff told Frey a verbal request cannot be considered an official request for the National Guard; the city’s request did not focus on protecting the Third Precinct; and the National Guard mobilized Thursday morning and was on the ground in the Twin Cities within 24 hours of Frey’s informal request.
Walz activated the National Guard at 2:30 p.m. Thursday May 28. But eight hours later, only 90 National Guard soldiers were on the ground across the Twin Cities. By that time, officers had already evacuated the Third Precinct after it was besieged by protesters.
Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington said in an interview Monday that the city’s early requests for assistance from the National Guard were “rather vague” and not detailed enough to activate the soldiers.
“They weren’t specific about what they wanted or any details on what the mission would be,” Harrington said. Then, when they received a list of areas they needed help with, “the list was so all-encompassing we could not possibly staff all the things they wanted.”
The records newly released by the city show that Minneapolis police and state officials corresponded multiple times that Wednesday night and into Friday regarding the city’s National Guard request.
At 9:11 p.m. Wednesday, Arradondo sent an e-mail to Harrington that included an attachment requesting “assistance of the MN National Guard for immediate assistance with significant civil unrest occurring in the City of Minneapolis.”
It said the department has “expended all available resources within our Department as well as all available law enforcement assistance from our neighboring jurisdictions.”
It listed a four-point mission plan: “Area Security and Force Protection Operations,” “Area Denial Operations,” “Transportation assistance for law enforcement officers,” “Logistical assistance for the overall security operation.”
Arradondo asked for 600 National Guard soldiers “along with compliment [sic] of command and control,” as well as vehicles. The National Guard would report to police department supervisors, who would coordinate with the National Guard’s leaders.
At 12:23 p.m. the following day, Arradondo sent Harrington an e-mail that included a list of “critical infrastructure sites to be protected,” listing the five police precincts and other government and medical buildings and businesses along Lake Street and other areas.
It also included a list of resources they thought the department might need the next week.
In an interview Monday, Arradondo said the city faced an “unprecedented, historical moment” and he hoped they would work with the state to learn more about the Guard’s deployment processes should they be needed in the future.
“There are a great deal of complexities, now I’ve learned,” he said.
Frey described his dismay watching Walz’s news conference Friday morning as the Third Precinct smoldered.
With Major General Jon Jensen of the Minnesota National Guard next to him, Walz called the city’s response an “abject failure.”
Walz had not warned him this public rebuke was coming, although they had a meeting shortly beforehand, he said.
“It was a sharp departure from every conversation we had had at that point,” Frey said. He described the governor’s assessment as “definitely a hit in the gut.”
“Not just for me, but for so many in our city that were doing everything they could. … Everyone was pouring themselves into stemming the violence,” he said.