Corrections officer who confronted protesters out of a job

Protesters rally in Stillwater
Protesters march in Stillwater, Minn., on Saturday, April 17. They were calling on Washington County Attorney Pete Orput to file more-severe charges against Kim Potter, the former Brooklyn Center police officer who shot Daunte Wright during a traffic stop.
Christopher Juhn for MPR News

An off-duty Minnesota prison sergeant who confronted peaceful protesters last month outside Washington County Attorney Peter Orput’s house no longer works for the prison system, the state’s corrections commissioner said Wednesday.

Paul Gorder and his wife, who live by Orput in Stillwater, were filmed insulting a group holding a political rally and prayer service outside Orput’s home. Gorder’s wife can be heard on the video using the N-word while angrily confronting the protesters.

Gorder, a 26-year-veteran of the state Corrections Department was placed on leave while the agency investigated. On Wednesday, Corrections Commissioner Paul Schnell said the investigation was completed and Gorder is no longer an employee.

The department would not say whether he was fired or quit. Schnell, in a statement, noted that under state law, the investigation and any discipline or data documenting the action is not public until it is final.

“When concerns about the conduct of an agency staff member arise, I am compelled to act in a manner that ensures public trust, while ensuring that the employee is afforded all the rights and protections guaranteed by law and their union’s collective bargaining agreement,” Schnell added.

Those who gathered outside Orput’s house were mostly Black activists demanding murder charges against the Brooklyn Center police officer who killed Daunte Wright.

A screengrab of a Twitter video.
A screenshot of a video posted on Twitter last month shows a couple cursing and yelling at a group demanding murder charges in the Daunte Wright case. The man in the video was later identified as Stillwater prison Sgt. Paul Gorder.
Courtesy of Isaiah Jones

Sixteen-year-old Isaiah Jones recorded a video of the incident, and said it was “heartbreaking.” 

“We’re out here having a peaceful protest, and this is what you think of us,” Jones said last month of the racist insults hurled at the group.

Civil rights attorney Nekima Levy Armstrong said the group had previously been confronted by the correctional worker when they protested outside Orput’s home. Levy Armstrong and others have been calling for Orput to turn over the prosecution of the police officer who shot and killed Daunte Wright earlier this month to the state attorney general’s office. 

“He yelled expletives at us, he called our Somali partners from CAIR [Council on American -Islamic Relations] illegals, he used all kinds of profane language to call us out,” Levy Armstrong said. “That was his wife who was cursing, and who called us ‘the N-word.’”  

The video shows Gorder and his wife yelling profanity at the group, while Stillwater police officers usher them out of the street and onto a nearby lawn. People in the protest reacted with disbelief, with one man saying, “Wow,” after the woman identified as Gorder’s wife uses a racial slur and tells the group to “get out of here.”  

Schnell at the time called Gorder’s actions “deeply disturbing and contrary to the mission and values of the Department of Corrections.”

MPR News at the time requested to talk to Gorder or leaders of AFSCME Council 5, the union that represents him, about the incident. The union said in a statement it was unable to comment, but that is "deeply committed to the values of diversity, equity and inclusion of all Minnesotans in the pursuit of racial, social and economic justice. All Minnesotans have the right to be treated with dignity and respect.”

Your support matters.

You make MPR News possible. Individual donations are behind the clarity in coverage from our reporters across the state, stories that connect us, and conversations that provide perspectives. Help ensure MPR remains a resource that brings Minnesotans together.