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Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz laments 'abject failure' of riot response

Briana Bierschbach, Star Tribune (Minneapolis) on

Published in News & Features

MINNEAPOLIS -- A day after one of the most destructive and violent nights in Minneapolis history, Gov. Tim Walz and the mayors of the state's two largest cities faced mounting criticism, with the governor calling the city's response an "abject failure."

As Walz vowed to restore order heading into the weekend, he acknowledged shortcomings in the response to protests late Thursday night and early Friday, which led to the evacuation and destruction of the city's 3rd Precinct headquarters, as well as widespread looting and arson fires that set the city ablaze.

Officials hoped that murder and manslaughter charges brought Friday against former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in connection with George Floyd's death might help calm tensions. Just hours before the arrest and charges, Department of Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington called Floyd's death a "murder."

"I don't want to prejudice this from a criminal perspective, but I'm just calling it like I see it at that point," he said.

Walz activated the National Guard on Thursday at the request of Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey to aid in response to the protests over the death of Floyd, who died after being forcibly restrained by police. St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter also requested assistance. Minnesota National Guard Adjutant General Jon Jensen said cities typically give direction on what is needed from the guard -- but that direction never came.

"We sort of knew what we might be doing as it related to civil disturbance in Minneapolis, but it's very important we know exactly what we're being asked to do so we have the right equipment, we mobilize the right number of soldiers," Jensen said. "That element was lacking."

 

In an interview Friday afternoon, Frey and Police Chief Medaria Arradondo said their police officers were "overwhelmed" with protests and violence, not just at the 3rd Precinct building on Lake Street but also across the city.

"We have never in my 30 years experienced multiple events of high-risk civil unrest, that included mass looting, indiscriminate arson with sounds of ... gunshots, direct violence in confrontations with police, and all of these happening throughout our entire city," Arradondo said. "These events over the last 72 hours absolutely overwhelmed our public safety response."

As one example, Minneapolis Fire Chief John Fruetel said he was unaware the 3rd Precinct building was on fire until he was told so by CNN host Don Lemon on Thursday night. Fruetel could not be reached for comment Friday.

Both Frey and Walz acknowledged that discussions took place earlier in the day about potentially evacuating the 3rd Precinct building, but ultimately Frey made the final call after discussions with the police chief. Arradondo said he became "gravely concerned" for his officers when protesters breached the building and entered inside.

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