Minneapolis protests turn into violence, fires, looting

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George Floyd’s death has caused hundreds of protesters to take over the streets all over the U.S. including Minneapolis, Memphis and Los Angeles.

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MINNEAPOLIS – Grief and anger turned to violence Wednesday night into Thursday as Minneapolis saw another day of protests following the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man who was pinned down by a white police officer who held his knee to Floyd’s neck.

Demonstrators had gathered earlier Wednesday near the local police precinct, and soon video on social media showed people smashing windows and looting a nearby stores and buildings set on fire.

It was the second night of tense protests following Floyd’s death, and on Thursday, the city’s leaders called for peace and security to be restored.

Federal authorities promised a “robust criminal investigation” as Floyd’s family renewed calls for the arrests of the officers involved in his death. The four officers were fired shortly after video of the encounter spread on social media showing Floyd struggling and telling the officers he couldn’t breathe.

Floyd’s death has sparked a national outcry for justice and other cities saw protests Wednesday night.

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Here’s what we know Thursday:

Minneapolis still reels; mayor says feeling sadness and anger is ‘right’

Smoke still billowed from buildings Thursday morning after another night of protests in Minneapolis.

A video shared on Twitter by Minnesota Public Radio photojournalist Evan Frost showed people gathering again outside police’s Third Precinct by mid-morning. Officers stood with face shields around the building and on its roof.

Photos from journalists around Minneapolis showed buildings burnt, windows smashed, debris thrown about and empty store shelves from overnight looting.

At a press conference Thursday afternoon, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said that he was authorizing the use of a central command so that Minneapolis police could restore peace and security in the city.

Frey said he understood that the anger and sadness that led to protests has been “built up” over 400 years and comes not just from Floyd’s death. “If you’re feeling that sadness and that anger, it’s not only understandable, it’s right,” Frey said.

“We must restore the peace so that we can do this hard work together,” Frey said.

“This could be a point in time, when several years from now, we can look back to know that we rose to right the wrongs of the past. Not just with words but with action,” he added.

In a moving moment during the news conference, Minneapolis Council Vice President Andrea Jenkins sang the opening of the song “Amazing Grace.”

“We feel as if there was a knee on all of our collective necks – a knee that says black life does not matter,” Jenkins said.

Jenkins said city leaders would be working with black community leaders to set up a “healing space” at the site of the third precinct, where people could gather to “grieve, express their concerns, their anger, in a safe and humane way.”

Police Chief Medaria Arradondo said the majority of protests were peaceful, some of the protesters “were not recognized” as being from the city.

“The vast majority of our Minneapolis community was not participating in the criminal conduct that occurred last night,” Arradondo said.

Man fatally shot amid violence; police say suspect in custody

Police spokesman John Elder told USA TODAY that the department was investigating a homicide near the area where a reporter from the Star Tribune newspaper tweeted that a looter had been shot and killed by a pawn shop owner.

Police said in a statement that a suspect was in custody early Thursday, but did not confirm any connection to alleged looting. 

Clashes between police, protesters as flames, looting engulf Minneapolis

The Minneapolis Fire Department said in a statement Thursday that firefighters responded to approximately 30 fires overnight, including at least 16 structure fires.

The department said no civilians or firefighters were injured in the blazes, but protesters hurled rocks projectiles at fire vehicles. Assistant Chief Bryan Tyner said in an email that he wasn’t sure how many fires were set individually versus jumping from building to building.

Photos shared on social media showed massive flames, including a building under construction.

Star Tribune video journalist Mark Vancleave tweeted that neighbors sprayed their homes with garden houses to try to stop the flames from spreading to other structures.

An AutoZone store was also ablaze, and many smaller stores appeared to have windows shattered. Videos showed a nearby Target being looted.

Vancleave also tweeted that protesters lit fireworks toward police. Officers were in riot gear, and the National Guard was called out to the local police precinct, the Star Tribune reported.

At one point, officers fired noise devices and projectiles toward a crowd of dozens gathered outside the Third Precinct. The nonlethal shots were fired after a group of protesters rolled dumpsters onto the street.

The protests continued for hours, with some throwing objects at police and officers spraying water from low-pressure hoses to keep control.

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Other videos in Floyd’s death

New cellphone, surveillance and body camera videos released since the original video of Floyd’s death show the details surrounding how police arrested and detained Floyd.

One video shows Minneapolis police officers pulling Floyd from a blue Mercedes SUV as they put handcuffs on him.

Minneapolis police’s statement about Floyd’s arrest says that “he physically resisted officers” after getting out of the vehcile, however, the video shows two officers grabbing Floyd and pulling him from the vehicle.

Another surveillance video shows the officers handcuffing Floyd and walking him toward the wall of a building. Floyd sits handcuffed on the ground before an officer lifts him up. Floyd appears to speak with the officer though there is no sound. Another officer walks over and they both bring Floyd across the street.

KARE 11 reported that the video came from Dragon Wok, a business at the intersection where Floyd was arrested.

Minneapolis Park Police also released heavily redacted body camera footage from an officer who arrived at the scene. KMSP-TV reported that the park police officer was responding to a request for assistance from Minneapolis Police but not involved in Floyd’s arrest. Video shows the officer standing by the car from which Floyd was arrested.

FBI, US Attorney promise ‘robust criminal investigation’

In a joint statement Thursday morning, officials at the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Minnesota, the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division and the FBI’s Minneapolis Field Office promised to conduct a “robust criminal investigation” into Floyd’s death.

The statement said that authorities would investigate whether the officers involved in Floyd’s death violated federal law.

“It is a violation of federal law for an individual acting under color of law to willfully deprive another person of any right protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States,” said the statement from U.S. Attorney Erica MacDonald and FBI Special Agent in Charge Rainer Drolshagen.

The offices called for witnesses to help in their investigation. Following the FBI and DOJ investigation, the U.S. Attorney’s office will decide whether to file federal charges, the statement says.

Minneapolis police previously said the FBI was aiding in its investigation of the incident, and the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office would handle prosecution of state criminal charges.

Floyd’s brother: ‘They executed my brother’

In an interview with CNN Thursday morning, Philonise Floyd, George Floyd’s brother, also called for peaceful protests in Minneapolis.

Philonise Floyd said he wanted to see the officers involved arrested immediately. The four officers were identified Wednesday, but no charges have been filed despite pleas from the Floyd family, Frey and others in the city.

“These officers, they need to be arrested right now. They need to be arrested and held accountable for everything,” Floyd told CNN.

Asked whether he had seen the video of the officer holding his knee to his brother’s neck, Floyd said, holding back tears: “I watched the video. It was hard but I had to watch the video. As I watched the video, those four officers, they executed my brother.”

Ben Crump, an attorney representing the Floyd family, told CNN that the family would be seeking an independent autopsy. The city has not yet released an autopsy report in Floyd’s death.

“They offered him no humanity while keeping his knee on his neck. Members of the public were the only ones trying to de-escalate the situation. Not the police,” Crump said.

Jesse Jackson: George Floyd could have been any one of my sons

Rev. Jesse Jackson urged further “disciplined” protests and came to Minnesota on Thursday to speak with religious leaders.

Jackson, 78, speaking with USA TODAY, implored Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman to press charges against the four officers.

“You murder somebody, you don’t get fired, you get charged with murder,” Jackson said. “If Floyd had done this to a white person, he’d be in jail today, bond too high to reach.”

Jackson said Floyd could have been any one of his three sons, who are near the age of Floyd, who was 46.

Protesters should continue to take action until charges are announced, Jackson said. He said black people have been “brutalized without consequence” for decades. Damaging demonstrations, which included looted businesses and burnt buildings Wednesday, are the result of decades of military-like policing tactics all across the country, Jackson said. 

“I understand the pain and the frustration. Seeing as all else has failed, they need this to get attention,” he added.

Previous complaints had been filed against officers

Police identified the officers Wednesday as Derek Chauvin, Thomas Lane, Tou Thao and J. Alexander Kueng. Attorney Tom Kelly said he was representing Chauvin, the officer seen with his knee on Floyd’s neck.

The service records of the four officers involved in the incident were no longer public, as they were part of the ongoing investigation, Minneapolis police said Wednesday.

According to The Associated Press, Chauvin was one of six officers who fired their weapons in the 2006 death of Wayne Reyes, who police said pointed a sawed-off shotgun at officers after stabbing two people. Chauvin also shot and wounded a man in 2008 in a struggle after Chauvin and his partner responded to a reported domestic assault.

In 2011, Chauvin was one of several officers put on temporary leave after a police shooting in a residential community, according to local news reports.

Thao was sued for excessive use of force in 2017, according to the Star-Tribune.

Several complaints have been filed against both officers, according to Communities United Against Police Brutality, a Twin-Cities based organization. Chauvin received three oral reprimands as well as seven other closed complaints for which he was not disciplined. Thao was not disciplined in five closed complaints. One case remains open.

Minnesota politicians react

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison said on on SiriusXM’s “The Joe Madison Show” said that he was worried about both under or over charging the officers invovled in the case.

“I will tell you that if this was just charged, if the top count was negligent homicide, that would be a shame,” Ellison said. Ellison also said that if charges are filed and the case were to go to trial, he wouldn’t support moving the trial to a different jurisdiction. He said he wanted “a just outcome.”

“Don’t you remember Rodney King? You know, those guys were acquitted. The guy who killed Walter Scott, that jury was a hung jury. We’ve got to make sure this thing is done right if you want to make things go according to a just outcome,” he said.

“Speechless” and “outraged” were the words state senator Jeff Hayden, representing the southern Minneapolis district where George Floyd was killed, used to describe his feelings of Floyd’s death.

“Every Minnesotan should feel safe in their community and every part of our state,” said Hayden, a Democrat who represents District 62. “This tragedy has left our entire community in grief.”

One of Hayden’s concerns was the power of the Minneapolis Police Department’s union, saying the organization is “part of the problem” when trying to weed out bad officers.

Hayden implored people to focus on justice for Floyd as opposed to the damage to property.

“Not that we wanted (businesses destroyed) but they can be rebuilt. We can’t bring back Mr. Floyd,” he said.

What happened leading up to the Floyd’s death?

On Monday, the Minneapolis Police Department released a statement that said the officers were responding to a report of a forgery in progress just after 8 p.m.

Police discovered a suspect and ordered him to get out of his car. 

“After he got out, he physically resisted officers,” MPD said in a statement. “Officers were able to get the suspect into handcuffs and noted he appeared to be suffering medical distress. Officers called for an ambulance. He was transported to Hennepin County Medical Center by ambulance where he died a short time later.”

However, the fire department reported that Floyd did not have a pulse in the ambulance and was unresponsive. Paramedics checked Floyd’s pulse several times and delivered a shock, according to the incident report.

The video of the incident taken by a bystander shows Chauvin with his knee pressed into Floyd’s neck while the man repeatedly says he can’t breathe. 

Floyd repeatedly pleads with Chauvin, at one point crying out for his mother and saying “everything hurts.” Chauvin keeps his knee on Floyd’s neck for roughly eight minutes in the video as Floyd becomes unresponsive.

Contributing: The Associated Press

Follow USA TODAY’s Ryan Miller on Twitter @RyanW_Miller

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