Minneapolis under curfew again after businesses looted, vandalized

People stand on ladders to cover windows with boards.
From right, Troy Waters, Jose Portillo and Chad Canesi board up windows at JB Hudson Jewelers in downtown Minneapolis on Thursday, August 27.
Christine T. Nguyen | MPR News/Christine T. Nguyen

Updated: 7:10 p.m.

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said the city will be under another nighttime curfew Thursday, following looting and vandalism that broke out the previous evening after what authorities said was misinformation about the apparent suicide of a homicide suspect.

"We will not abide by lawlessness. We will not tolerate deliberate and malicious destruction of our neighborhoods and of our businesses," Frey said during a news conference Thursday with police Chief Medaria Arradondo and other city leaders.

"Let's restore order. Let's restore peace," Frey implored residents. "Stay in, stay safe and please help us all bring about peace."

The curfew will run from 8 p.m. Thursday to 6 a.m. Friday. Mayor Melvin Carter announced a curfew of the same duration for St. Paul.

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In a news conference Thursday night, state Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington said there would be “in excess of 1,000 peace officers” in Minneapolis and St. Paul Thursday night. Around 250 National Guard soldiers are mobilized to support law enforcement in the metro area.

The city is still reeling from the death of George Floyd, a Black man who was pinned to the ground three months ago by the knee of a white police officer. His killing unleashed largely peaceful protests but also several days of looting, fires and rioting in Minneapolis, as well as a national reckoning on race and police reform.

But Arradondo said productive and genuine conversations about race and policing cannot happen when “we have individuals who will try to hijack the narrative.”

“It is shameful that anyone would ever try to equate the actions last night with Mr. George Floyd,” he said. “These individuals were not peacefully protesting or assembling. They were looting, They were creating vandalism. They were burglarizing, trying to set buildings ablaze.”

Arradondo said anyone coming to the city for criminal activity "will be held accountable and arrested.”

Minneapolis police first said approximately 50 people were arrested during the unrest. The Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office later reported 132 arrests Wednesday night, which saw groups of people smashing windows and grabbing merchandise from stores on and around Nicollet Mall. Reporters saw people taking items from Saks OFF 5TH and Foot Locker.

Sheriff Dave Hutchinson said the arrests were made by several different law enforcement agencies and were made in connection to burglary, riot, damage to property and for violating curfew.

Firefighters responded to four fires, including at Brit’s Pub downtown, but it was unclear whether a fire at the China Wok restaurant near the former 3rd Precinct headquarters was related to the unrest.

Arradondo said two Minneapolis officers were injured, one of whom could have been seriously hurt if not for a protective helmet he wore.

Tim Nelson reports: National Guard activated to quell unrest
by MPR News

Gov. Tim Walz mobilized the Minnesota National Guard at the request of Mayor Frey, who had imposed an overnight curfew into Thursday morning.

Walz also sent 150 members of the State Patrol to help Minneapolis police and the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office.

Through the evening, law enforcement set off flash bangs, blocked streets as crowds roamed the streets. State vehicles blocked highway entrances into Minneapolis.

A person wearing camouflage standing on the street.
A National Guard member stands at Nicollet Mall and Alice Rainville Place in downtown Minneapolis on Thursday.
Christine T. Nguyen | MPR News/Christine T. Nguyen

Walz addressed the unrest again Thursday afternoon during a press conference highlighting new loans for small businesses impacted by the pandemic.

He stressed the importance of building trust between elected officials, law enforcement and the public.

“It is absolutely possible to hold the idea that we need to do better on systemic racism, we need to do better on the issues that led to Jacob Blake and George Floyd,” he said. “But we can also say, we can’t live in a society where lawless, reckless behavior puts people and businesses at risk.”

When asked about the decision to deploy National Guard troops Wednesday night, Walz said it was informed by “lessons learned” during the unrest following George Floyd’s death.

He added that the events Wednesday night were markedly different than what happened in May. "This was not a peaceful protest that devolved into this" unlawful behavior, he said.

Walz told reporters there would be a “robust” effort to respond in case of more destruction Thursday night, adding that those efforts will be led by the Minneapolis police and fire departments. He urged people to respect the most recent curfew and stay safe.

Business owner confronted vandal, spared his life

One business impacted by the destruction was Lotus Restaurant. Yoom Nguyen and his family own the restaurant just south of downtown.  After someone threw a rock through one of the windows Wednesday night, others rushed into the dining room, Nguyen said.

"They knocked over tables, they knocked over chairs, they broke windows.”

Nguyen has a permit to carry a handgun and said he came close to shooting one of the intruders.

“One guy grabbed a rock and threw it at our family photo,” Nguyen recounted. “I told him, 'Don't ever do that.’ He gave me a smirk, and I pulled out a gun."

Nguyen pointed the weapon at the man but did not pull the trigger.

"He froze and for some reason I cried," Nguyen said.

It was over in less than a minute. The intruders took his cash register. 

"This isn't a story, it's more of an experience,” Nguyen said, adding that he still gets choked up talking about what happened and how close he came to possibly taking a life.

Clean up began after the curfew expired Thursday morning, and Nguyen hopes to reopen the restaurant in the coming days.

“It's traumatizing,” Nguyen said. “Last night I just cried for hours, and I kept crying. This is not who I am."

Graphic video released in attempt to counter false rumors

On Wednesday, police tried to quash rumors that the man who died by suicide downtown had been shot by officers.

The man — whom authorities have not identified publicly — had been wanted in connection with a fatal shooting in a Target Field parking ramp earlier in the day.

He shot and killed himself just after 6 p.m. near Eighth Street and Nicollet Avenue as officers moved in to arrest him.

Within 90 minutes, Minneapolis police spokesperson John Elder showed reporters street camera video of the incident. Elder said police did not fire their weapons.

"Officers immediately approached, slid the gun away from him, removed his backpack, and immediately began chest compressions. He was pronounced deceased at the scene," Elder said.

Arradondo said not only police, but community members tried to show the video and explain to people what had happened. The city of Minneapolis and the Police Department also took the extraordinary step of not only releasing the graphic video to media, but also tweeting a link to it.

On Thursday morning, Minneapolis police said that after receiving community feedback, they removed the video “out of respect to the individual, his family and the community.”

Though there appeared to be no organized protest Wednesday night, people shouted their frustration with police. A poll conducted earlier this month found just a quarter of Minneapolis residents hold a favorable opinion of the Police Department.

Minneapolis Council member Steve Fletcher on the unrest
by Cathy Wurzer

“The evidence here is very clear: we've lost community trust in the way we've been approaching community safety,” said Council member Steve Fletcher in an interview Thursday with MPR News host Cathy Wurzer. Fletcher supported the charter proposal that would have replaced Minneapolis police with a community safety department.

“I think unless we can move our way through this and build something that has community buy-in and authentic relationships to the people of Minneapolis, I don't think we're going to get ourselves out of the precarity of a community that's walking around with a lot of underlying pain,” Fletcher said.

Council member Jeremiah Ellison, who also supports efforts to overhaul the police force, tweeted a call for understanding about why the violence broke out even though police didn't kill the man.

“MPD did not kill him, but people assuming they did is rooted in a steep distrust," he wrote. "That distrust is our failure to own. Seeing windows broken and items stolen can be beyond frustrating, especially when all that rage was sparked (this time) by misinformation. But so often our policing institutions have themselves been the source of misinformation. We forfeited our goodwill and this is the ugly cost.”

Earlier Wednesday, Frey and Arradondo announced changes in police policy aimed at reducing use of force. The changes included requiring officers to explain whenever they unholster weapons in the presence of a subject, and not firing at vehicles unless public safety demands it.

If you or someone you know are thinking about suicide — wait. There are trained counselors available to help 24/7, for free. Send the word TALK to the Crisis Text Line at 741741. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 (TALK).

The Associated Press contributed to this report.