With protesters gathering outside his Stillwater home earlier this week, Washington County Attorney Pete Orput walked out to his front deck wearing a casual hoodie sweatshirt and a rumpled look.
Then, after he was invited to do so, he walked to the street to hear from civil rights attorney Nekima Levy Armstrong and others as they pressed for murder charges in the killing of Daunte Wright, a case that Orput has said warrants second-degree manslaughter.
What followed has been broadcast on social media with mostly negative online reviews for Orput, who gestures, debates and disagrees as, one by one, people make their case for higher charges.
An excitable speaker known for frank and candid talk, Orput got credit from some viewers for coming out of his house, while others saw his behavior as too loose or unprofessional.
On Friday, Orput said he wasn't going to be forced to change his mind.
"I greatly respect the First Amendment, but … I'm not going to succumb to pressure like that," he said. "It's about the most unethical thing a guy could do, and I'm not going to do it."
Orput said the second-degree manslaughter charge he filed against former Brooklyn Center police officer Kimberly Potter matches the facts of the case, and that it's what he can prove in court. He said other prosecutions of gun-Taser mix-up cases also involved second-degree manslaughter charges.
He said he received 300 e-mails on Friday, a lobbying campaign unlike anything he's seen in his career. It's an echo of similar protests last summer at the home of Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman, who sold his home in July.
Orput said he and Attorney General Keith Ellison spoke Thursday and that he remains on the case, a fact confirmed Friday by Ellison's office.
Levy Armstrong said she was surprised when Orput came out of his house. Although the two attorneys are both high-profile and longtime members of the Twin Cities legal community, they had never met, she said.
Her first plan was to ask that the charges be upgraded to include murder while also pressing Gov. Tim Walz to move the case to Ellison's office, but it was Orput's demeanor that became the larger issue for her.
"It was so alarming to see how he was treating us," she said. "And it gave us insight into whether he has the wherewithal to understand the racial dynamics that played a role in this case."
Orput spoke to Black people at the protest differently than to white people, Levy Armstrong said: "Anyone watching the video could see that."
At least two videos of the protesters' visit to Orput's house on Thursday are available online. One is edited, and doesn't show Levy Armstrong inviting Orput to come down to the street.
In both, she and Orput debated the case as other protesters watched or chimed in.
"If that were a white boy, you would have charged murder," said Levy Armstrong.
Orput at one point asked Levy Armstrong if she wanted to try the case and to bring murder charges, and she said she did, asking to be named a special prosecutor.
As the chants and arguments continued, Orput told the crowd, "I wish you knew me."
Among protesters' criticisms is Orput's association with the Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association. He was once a volunteer attorney for the group but hasn't worked for it for a decade, he said. He started there in 1994, attending board meetings, teaching and writing for the group's magazine.
Some critics have said his association with the group represents a conflict of interest for the prosecution of a police officer. In his defense, Orput said that while he was volunteering for the chiefs association, he successfully prosecuted Lanesboro police chief John Tuchek in an arson case. Tuchek was sent to prison for six years.
He's also taken criticism in relation to another high-profile police shooting, the 2015 case of Marcus Golden, in which Orput said criminal charges against the two St. Paul police officers who fatally shot Golden were not warranted. A Washington County grand jury declined to issue charges.
"Facts matter, and I tried to tell them that last night," Orput said Friday. "They have their agenda, and it's impervious to the facts, impervious to the law."
Levy Armstrong said her group plans to return to Orput's home.
"He revealed his true character and his belief system," she said of Orput. "And his belief system is to give the police officers the benefit of the doubt."
Matt McKinney • 612-673-7329