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Fires erupt in Minneapolis amid growing protests over George Floyd’s death

Videos show paramedic performing CPR on a man lying on the sidewalk, fires shrouding Lake Street neighborhood in smoke


The AutoZone Auto Parts store across from the Third Precinct was set afire.

Carlos Gonzalez/Star Tribune

Ryan Faircloth, Liz Navratil, Liz Sawyer and Matt McKinney Star
Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

MINNEAPOLIS — Anger over the death of George Floyd under a police officer’s knee spilled into the streets of Minneapolis for a second night Wednesday, with a shooting death, widespread looting and a fire that shrouded the Lake Street neighborhood in smoke.

One person was fatally shot in the area where the protest was taking place late Wednesday, possibly by a pawnshop owner who said the person was looting his business.

In a news conference early Thursday, police spokesman John Elder said two officers responded to the scene outside Cadillac Pawn & Jewelry at 1538 E. Lake Street and administered first aid to the wounded man until medics arrived. He was taken to Hennepin County Medical Center, where he died.

One person is in custody in relation to the death, Elder said. Many witnesses were declining to cooperate with police investigators, he said.

“The facts of what led up to the shooting are still being sorted out. We are truly in the infancy of this investigation,” Elder said.

He would not say whether the man shot was a looter. “That is one of the theories we are looking into, as we said the body was found outside and we are looking into scenarios to see what happened,” he said.

Wednesday night’s protest violence represented an escalation over Tuesday’s incidents, Elder said.

A video posted to Twitter by user @FindingNovyon showed a paramedic performing CPR on a man lying on the sidewalk as other medics urged protesters to keep their distance and flash-bangs are heard in the background.

“There’s somebody in there with a rifle, back up! Back up!” one of the medics can be seen saying on the video.

A spokesman for Gov. Tim Walz’s office said late Wednesday that 50 to 60 State Patrol troopers will be called in to help Minneapolis police. There was as yet no plan to call out the National Guard.

Meanwhile, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said that he has asked Walz to consider calling in the Guard.

“Please, please, Minneapolis,” 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. …

“Yes, we’re reeling,” he continued. “I understand the anger and pain, and we need the public’s help in keeping the peace tonight. We need that in order to get through this together.

“I love our city. I know our residents do too, and we need to be doing everything possible to not have one tragedy beget more.”

Frey said he has been in constant contact with Walz’s office, Police Chief Medaria Arradondo and community leaders.

Most of the violence stemmed from a large crowd that gathered outside Minneapolis’ Third Precinct police headquarters, throwing objects at the building and officers and turning more violent as the night wore on. Police deployed rubber bullets, flash bombs and tear gas to push them back.

The AutoZone Auto Parts store across from the Third Precinct was set afire. As some protesters tried to extinguish the fire, others danced gleefully in front of the flames and smoke, snapping selfies.

Fired police Officer Derek Chauvin and three other officers who were at the scene of Floyd’s death Monday night were associated with the Third Precinct.

At the nearby Lake Street Target store, looters were seen leaving with items ranging from large TVs to clothing to groceries. Looting also occurred at Minnehaha Lake Wine & Spirits and at many other businesses in the area. A Star Tribune reporter at the scene reported every window smashed in a strip mall of businesses, and cars loaded with looted goods leaving the scene.

Target spokesman Joshua Thomas released a statement saying the Lake Street Target will be closed until further notice. “We are heartbroken by the death of George Floyd and the pain it is causing our community,” he said. “We decided to close our Lake Street store earlier today and worked to ensure all of our team members were accounted for and safe. Our focus will remain on our team members’ safety and helping our community heal.”

Late Wednesday, Minneapolis City Council Vice President Andrea Jenkins decried the violence, saying, “I understand the frustration of my community members, but I’m really disappointed that people feel like the only way to express anger is through destroying our own community. I mean, tomorrow, where are these moms … going to be able to get food and diapers for their children? We’re in a pandemic. Stores aren’t even open.”

“I do understand the frustration, but you know there’s way to protest, to express your displeasure. And civil disobedience … we know that this exists and it works. We have an entire civil rights movement to justify it. And yeah, I get the anger, but it’s a no-win battle. I think for the most part, the police have remained somewhat restrained, because they have not just flat out started beating people and arresting people and dragging people in the middle of the streets, but the unruliness, the looting, the setting of fire (to) our own community is unacceptable and it’s painful.

“Go home and take care of your kids,” she said. “Go hug your mama and grandma. Why are you in the streets getting COVID so you can kill your family? Take your ass home now.”

Earlier, a smaller, less chaotic protest was held at Chicago Avenue and East 38th Street, where Floyd died. And protesters gathered outside the Minneapolis home of Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman and the Oakdale residence of Chauvin.

About 50 protesters stood on the boulevard in front of Freeman’s home, chanting and shouting demands for Chauvin, the police officer seen in a bystander’s video with his knee on the neck of the dying Floyd, to be charged with murder.

“They need to go to jail, all four cops … because they decided to do nothing when an innocent black man was being murdered about a $20 counterfeit bill,” said Erica Chick, who drove up from Charles City, Iowa, to attend Wednesday’s protests.

“They should have been in jail 10 minutes after it happened,” added Katy Cummins-Bakko, of St. Paul.

One of Freeman’s neighbors, Mark Bartlett, watched the demonstration unfold from his front lawn.

“It’s a horrible embarrassment for Minneapolis and I’m sure that Freeman is horrified also. I’m not sure if he would be able to act on the information (to file charges) yet,” Bartlett said.

A larger crowd of at least 100 people, many carrying signs, gathered outside what’s believed to be Chauvin’s home in Oakdale.

Someone threw opened cans of red paint onto the driveway, and the word “Killer” was written in red on the garage door. Written in chalk on the street in front of his house: “George Floyd,” “A murderer lives here,” and “He said he couldn’t breathe.”

Around 6:45 p.m., police blocked off Helmo Avenue North, the main thoroughfare supplying a stream of cars and attention for protesters. A squad of about 30 officers from the Washington County Mobile Field Force arrived wearing riot-control gear, standing on the street in front of the house. Protesters immediately lined up to face off with the officers.

“If it was anybody else, they would be in jail,” said Ashley Bowes, a mother of five who joined the crowd in Oakdale. The protest, she said, “means everything to me. For my children, this is their sad reality of life. The only way this is going to change is if people stand up.”

No one answered the front door of the house believed to be Chauvin’s when a protester knocked, and there was no car parked in the driveway, but Bowes said she saw someone turning off lights and moving window curtains at the residence on Tuesday night.

“Yes,” she said, Chauvin was at the home.


©2020 Star Tribune (Minneapolis)