St. Paul cop apologizes for post urging drivers to run over protesters

Protest on a brige
Dozens of people braved the bitter cold for a Martin Luther King Day rally on Monday, and a St. Paul police officer made a Facebook post encouraging drivers to run over the protesters.
Kyle Potter | AP

Updated: 5:10 p.m. | Posted: 3:20 p.m.

A St. Paul police sergeant apologized Wednesday for a social media post that urged drivers to run over protesters during a Martin Luther King Jr. Day march.

Sgt. Jeff Rothecker posted the comment on Facebook ahead of the planned demonstration Monday against police killings of black men.

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His post garnered public and media attention over the past several days after Andrew Henderson, who runs the Minnesota Cop Block Facebook page, spotted the comment early Saturday. He reported it to police and filed an internal affairs complaint the next day.

In his apology, Rothecker, who was put on leave, confirmed he was behind the post written by "JM Roth." He acknowledged it was insensitive and wrong.

"My poor choice of words conveyed a message I did not intend and am not proud of. Shortly after submitting the post, I re-read it and deleted it," he wrote. "As a law enforcement officer, I would never intentionally encourage someone to commit a crime. I very much regret my actions."

The St. Paul Police Federation represents Rothecker. Union officials say they do not agree with the post but will "ensure that he receives due process."

A statement from the federation said Rothecker is a veteran of the United States Army. He's been with the St. Paul police department for more than 20 years.

On Monday, Rothecker resigned his position with the Minnesota Fraternal Order of Police, which said it "does not condone" the comments. A statement from the order's president Matthew Hagen described Rothecker as "former 2nd vice president."

Rothecker's apology on Wednesday went on to say he regrets "exposing law enforcement officers to increased scrutiny, during this difficult time of ongoing conflict between officers and members of the community."

St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman continued to express outrage about the comments made by Rothecker.

"While an apology is certainly in order, it is not sufficient to repair the trust that has been broken," Coleman said in a statement. "Beyond that, Minnesota law prevents me from talking about disciplinary action until any employee appeals period is over."