MINNEAPOLIS — Fires burned and looters struck Thursday after violent protests over the death of a black man in police custody rocked a Minneapolis neighborhood for a second straight night, with damage stretching for miles across the city and Mayor Jacob Frey appealing to the governor to activate the National Guard.
Amid the violence, a man was found fatally shot Wednesday night near a pawn shop. Asked to confirm reports that he had been shot by a store owner, police spokesman John Elder said that was “one of the theories.”
Pockets of looting continued Thursday at stores where windows and doors were smashed. KSTP-TV reported some fires at businesses continued to burn with no firefighters on scene. A liquor store employee displayed a gun as he stood among the debris of broken bottles and beer cans inside the business.
Protesters began gathering in the early afternoon Wednesday near the city’s 3rd Precinct station, in the southern part of the city where 46-year-old George Floyd died on Memorial Day after an officer knelt on his neck until he became unresponsive. Protesters also skirmished with officers, who fired rubber bullets and tear gas in a repeat of Tuesday night’s confrontation.
On Thursday morning, smoke hung over Minneapolis and looters carried merchandise from a damaged Target store with no interference by police. Video of the store’s interior showed empty clothing racks and shelves and debris strewn about. Obscenities were spray-painted on the exterior of the store.
Protests spread to other U.S. cities. In California, hundreds of people protesting Floyd’s death blocked a Los Angeles freeway and shattered windows of California Highway Patrol cruisers on Wednesday.
It was a second and much more violent night in Minneapolis since the death of Floyd, whom police were seeking to arrest outside a Minneapolis grocery store on a report of a counterfeit bill being passed. A bystander’s cellphone video showed an officer kneeling on Floyd ‘s neck for almost eight minutes as he eventually became unresponsive.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI in Minneapolis said Thursday they were conducting “a robust criminal investigation” into Floyd’s death and was making the case a priority. The FBI had already announced it was investigating whether Floyd’s civil rights were violated. The new announcement came a day after President Donald Trump tweeted that he had asked an investigation to be expedited.
Mayor Jacob Frey tweeted for calm early Thursday. “Please, Minneapolis, we cannot let tragedy beget more tragedy,” he said on Twitter. He also asked for the public’s help in keeping the peace.
The officer and three others were fired Tuesday, and on Wednesday, Frey called for him to be criminally charged.
Frey asked Gov. Tim Walz to activate the National Guard, a spokesman confirmed Thursday. The governor’s office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. Walz tweeted for calm Wednesday night, calling the violence “an extremely dangerous situation” and urging people to leave the scene.
On Wednesday night, 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, Elder said. The man was pronounced dead at a local hospital. Elder said a suspect was in custody but said the facts leading up to the shooting were “still being sorted out.”