Updated May 28, 7:47 a.m.
Updates on this developing story can be found here.
A man was shot to death as protests over the death of George Floyd dissolved into looting Wednesday night in south Minneapolis, with streams of people pulling goods from Target, Cub Foods and other local businesses. Fires, some of which are still burning, engulfed the Lake Street area in smoke.
Police said they were investigating Wednesday night's death as a homicide and had a suspect in custody, but were still investigating what led to the shooting.
Protesters began gathering in the early afternoon near the city's 3rd Precinct station. Police deployed chemical irritant gas early in the evening as some protesters threw rocks at the building and tensions escalated.
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey did the same, telling a CNN interviewer just before 9 p.m., “I’m imploring our city, I’m imploring our community. This is on all of us — our police officers, our community, all of us right now — to keep the peace.”
But the violence didn’t stop. By early Thursday morning, Minneapolis police confirmed they were investigating the shooting death of a man, with one person taken into custody.
Police spokesperson John Elder said officers responding to a reported stabbing near the protests found a man lying on the sidewalk with what turned out to be a bullet wound. The man was pronounced dead at a local hospital. Elder said the facts leading up to the shooting were “still being sorted out.”
At Lake Street and Minnehaha Avenue Wednesday night, MPR News reporter Matt Sepic said looters had cleaned out and badly damaged the East Lake Street Target and then turned to a nearby liquor store and auto parts store. Looters also hit the Cub Foods in the area.
Police were shooting marking rounds at some demonstrators, trying to identify some of the people who have been vandalizing the building or throwing objects at police, Sepic added.
People were throwing objects at firefighters trying to put out fires and the scene was “more looting and troublemaking than protesting, and certainly anything but peaceful at this point,” Sepic reported.
By early Thursday, the looting had spread along Lake Street in both directions.
A multistory apartment building under construction near the corner of Lake Street and Minnehaha Avenue burned early Thursday. KARE 11 photojournalist Dave Peterlinz tweeted the flames were visible from Bloomington, about 10 miles south of Minneapolis.
‘It’s like a war came through’
Reporting from Lake Street Thursday morning, MPR News’ Jon Collins described the damage as “unbelievable devastation.”
“There's an industrial building across the street from me that's smoking. There's affordable housing that was being built that is still on fire ... there is a Wendy's that is completely demolished in the parking lot. Target has been looted. Cub has been looted ... and blockades everywhere,” he said.
“People are stunned by what this looks like. This is every day life, this is the grocery store, this is Target, this is fast food places, things people are really used to. They can't believe it's sitting there smoking and burning and there are helicopters above us and sirens going off,” he said. “It's just really, really hard to take in.”
Ingebretsen's, a gift store and meat market that’s been a fixture on Lake Street since the 1920s, was among the businesses damaged.
“It’s like a war came through here last night,” said Julie Ingebretsen, the granddaughter of the store’s founders. “It’s just destruction. And it makes me so sad, I can hardly stand it.”
Metro Transit said Blue Line light rail trains, which run along Hiawatha Avenue with a station at Lake Street, would not run until further notice, and that there would not be replacement bus service.
‘Extremely dangerous situation’
The chaos erupted again a day after after four Minneapolis police officers were fired in the wake of a video showing a white Minneapolis police officer with his knee on Floyd's neck Monday night. Handcuffed and face down, Floyd told the officer he couldn't breathe. He later died.
The video sparked waves of outrage here and across the county. Earlier in the day, Frey had called for the officer to be prosecuted as he and Police Chief Medaria Arradondo urged peaceful protests.
By 9:30 p.m., Arradondo told Fox 9 News that while the vast majority of protesters were peaceful, there was looting happening as well as “significant property damage” and the “creation of Molotov cocktails.”
Protests, he said, “cannot be at the cost of others’ personal safety. We cannot have that.”
Later Wednesday night, the chief told MPR News that the demonstrations in Floyd’s name had been "hijacked" by some protesters and looters engaged in "criminal conduct."
Beyond Minneapolis police and Hennepin County sheriff’s deputies, the police presence included some 50 Minnesota State Patrol troopers as well as officers from St. Paul who helped maintain security for firefighters. Mayor Frey has requested help from the National Guard.
Minneapolis City Council Member Jeremiah Ellison Wednesday evening said he was disappointed by the police response to protests. The city's strategy for containing violence and protecting the community has failed, he told MPR News.
"We always do this — we create a barrier, put the police out there, put them in a line, put face masks, depersonalize them, make them look as scary as possible and we always get this result, and then we want to point the finger at community members,” Ellison said.
Two hours after Walz’s plea to protest peacefully, he returned again to Twitter to urge people to leave the area around Lake and Hiawatha because it had “evolved into an extremely dangerous situation.”
Another protest is set for 5 p.m. Thursday in downtown Minneapolis.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.