Minneapolis shuddered with violence overnight Wednesday, as rioters ignited fires and looted stores all over the city, standing in stark contrast to the mostly peaceful protests outside of a South Side police station over the police killing of George Floyd.
Early Thursday, city and law enforcement officials were still tallying the full toll of the night, which saw at least five people struck by gunfire, one fatally when the owner of a pawn shop opened fire on a man he believed was burglarizing his business. Dozens of businesses were either looted or torched, or both, mostly in the area of Minnehaha Avenue and E. Lake Street, but also along business corridors on the city's North and South sides.
The National Guard was ordered to the 3rd Precinct police station to relieve Minneapolis police officers, as demonstrators encircled the precinct, chanting loudly and carrying banners demanding justice for Floyd. St. Paul police and the State Patrol were also on hand.
It's not clear how many arrests police made throughout the night. In the fatal shooting, a 59-year-old man was booked into the Hennepin County Jail on suspicion of murder, according to online jail records.
Department sources say the suspect shot a man whom he assumed was trying to loot Cadillac Pawn & Jewelry, at 1538 E. Lake St. — about a mile west of the main protest site. The victim, whose identity hasn’t yet been released, died later at a nearby hospital.
“Please, please, Minneapolis,” an emotional Mayor Jacob Frey told a Star Tribune reporter just before midnight. “We cannot let tragedy beget more tragedy. The activity around Lake and Hiawatha is now unsafe. Please, help us keep the peace. ..."
The violence followed a daylong protest outside the Third Precinct police headquarters, where officers sought to disperse crowds with flash-bang grenades, tear gas and projectiles through the day and night.
Earlier, Frey called for the arrest and charging of now-fired police officer Derek Chauvin, who knelt on Floyd’s neck as he pleaded to breathe.
“I’ve wrestled with, more than anything else over the last 36 hours, one fundamental question: Why is the man who killed George Floyd not in jail?” Frey said. “If you had done it, or I had done it, we would be behind bars right now. And I cannot come up with a good answer to that.”
Frey’s comments came on the second day of widespread protests over Floyd’s death, which occurred shortly after police detained him Monday on suspicion of trying to pass a counterfeit $20 bill.
In addition to the protests near the Third Precinct in Minneapolis, demonstrators also gathered Wednesday at the homes of Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman and the Oakdale home of Chauvin.
Frey said he was calling for action by Freeman, who has the authority to seek charges in Floyd’s death. “We are working with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) and the Hennepin County Medical Examiner to expeditiously gather and review all of the evidence in the tragic death of Mr. George Floyd,” Freeman’s office said in a statement. “The videotaped death of Mr. Floyd, which has outraged us and people across the country, deserves the best we can give and that is what this office will do.”
State Department of Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington said the BCA investigation, which he oversees, is underway. “We will do an expeditious investigation. We will ensure that this is not an investigation that lags,” he said, adding that the department also won’t cut corners to complete its work quickly.
Because the BCA and FBI are conducting a joint investigation, those two agencies have the authority to make an arrest, said police spokesman John Elder. Either agency could arrest any of the four officers at any time if they believe they have probable cause. The BCA would send the case to Freeman’s office for charging, while the FBI would send the case to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
The city identified the officers involved as Chauvin, Thomas Lane, Tou Thao and J Alexander Kueng. Chief Medaria Arradondo fired all four Tuesday. Chauvin, 44, is a 19-year department veteran. Thao is a 12-year veteran. Kueng joined the department in 2017 and Lane in 2019.
Chauvin is represented by attorney Tom Kelly. Thao is represented by Robert Paule, Kueng by Thomas Plunkett, and Lane by Earl Gray. All declined to comment.
Minneapolis Police Federation President Lt. Bob Kroll did not respond to messages requesting comment and declined to take questions from a reporter at his office. However, he said in a statement provided to Forum News Service before Tuesday’s firings that, “Now is not the time to rush to judgment and immediately condemn our officers. We ask that the community remain calm and the investigation be completed in full.”
‘Shocked and horrified’
Gov. Tim Walz said Wednesday that he was “shocked and horrified” by the video of Floyd’s death. President Donald Trump called Floyd’s death “very sad and tragic.”
“I have asked for this investigation to be expedited and greatly appreciate all of the work done by local law enforcement,” Trump wrote in a tweet. “My heart goes out to George’s family and friends. Justice will be served!”
Frey said he made the decision to call for charges after watching the video. He said he has not spoken to the officers involved or seen the footage captured by their body cameras. Frey said the restraint technique used against Floyd is not authorized by the MPD, is not something officers were trained in and “should not be used, period.”
“We watched for five whole excruciating minutes as a white officer firmly pressed his knee into the neck of an unarmed handcuffed black man. I saw no threat. I saw nothing that would signal that this kind of force was necessary,” Frey said.
He noted that in many other cases, officers’ decisions are made in “four or five or six seconds.”
“We are not talking about a split-second decision that was made incorrectly,” Frey said. “There’s somewhere around 300 seconds in those five minutes, every one of which the officer could have turned back, every second of which he could have removed his knee from George Floyd’s neck.”
On Wednesday, the Minnesota Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) Board said Chauvin’s actions do not reflect any training officers receive.
“The video is troubling and disturbing and it is the Board’s position that sanctity of life must be the guiding principle for all law enforcement officers,” the statement said.
In additional fallout from the Floyd case, University of Minnesota President Joan Gabel announced that the school will cut some ties with the Minneapolis police, including no longer contracting for off-duty security at football games, concerts and ceremonies, and terminating its contract for bomb-sniffing dogs.
“We will limit our collaboration with the MPD to joint patrols and investigations that directly enhance the safety of our communities or that allow us to investigate and apprehend those who put our students, faculty, and staff at risk,” Gabel said in a letter to students and faculty.
Eric Hageman, a Minnesota attorney who has successfully sued police officers in brutality cases, said that use of force must be “objectively reasonable” from the officer’s perspective at the time it was used, a standard established in a landmark 1989 Supreme Court case, Graham v. Connor.
Among the factors a court might consider are the severity of the underlying crime, whether the suspect was actively resisting arrest and whether his or her behavior presented a threat to the safety of the officer or anyone else. It’s unclear whether the officers had previous contacts with Floyd, but his Minnesota criminal history was limited to a pair of traffic violations.
“The video would appear that he was using force solely for the purpose of inflicting harm, which is unconstitutional,” Hageman said of the officer.
The death has also renewed calls for overhauling the police department’s culture, although most critics have stopped short of calling for the chief’s resignation.
Elizer Darris, an organizer with the ACLU, said he sees a need to root out a culture that prioritizes covering for one another. This “blue code of silence” continued even after Arradondo issued an order saying that officers who allowed their colleagues to behave badly would also be held responsible.
“Even if that’s your blue brother, the preservation of life should be paramount to everything else,” he said.
The FBI is also assisting with the investigation, and while Frey said he believes charging authority lies with Freeman, he added that to the extent federal authorities have jurisdiction, “Yeah, I’m calling on that, too.”
He said he had not seen any evidence that Floyd resisted arrest, and that he wants the body camera footage released “as soon as possible, while not compromising the investigation but, more importantly, the charge that I hope will come forward.”
Staff writers Chao Xiong, Paul Walsh, Rochelle Olson, Ryan Faircloth, Matt McKinney, Andy Mannix and Briana Bierschbach contributed to this report.