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Looting, riots strike Minneapolis after completely fake story about a police shooting spread

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Abby Simons, Kim Hyatt and Paul Walsh

Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

Downtown Minneapolis slowly moved toward a restoration of order Thursday morning after rioting over a suicide ignited unrest reminicsent on a smaller scale of the unrest that followed George Floyd’s death under a police officer’s knee three months ago.

A city-imposed curfew stretching overnight expired at 6 a.m., and National Guard personnel were spotted downtown, while some Metro Transit service was back up and running.

Wednesday night’s unrest was sparked by untrue rumors that police had fatally shot a man who killed himself on Nicollet Mall hours after he was implicated in a homicide elsewhere downtown.

Police almost immediately shared surveillance video of the suicide with the public, but it did little to calm people in crowds who broke windows at retail stores, restaurants, bars and coffee shops.

The sudden chaos prompted Gov. Tim Walz to declare an emergency in the city and mobilize the Minnesota National Guard and 150 State Patrol troopers.

Targeted businesses were many in downtown and included a fire damaged Brit’s Pub, Chipotle, Caribou, Nordstrom Rack and the nearby Target store. Signs of looting were also evident.

If not for the alarm buzzing at Brit’s Pub, it was largely quiet downtown Thursday morning. Glass shards everywhere and trash, fire sprinklers still on. Cleanup personnel were taking brooms to sidewalks.

“I didn’t think this would happen again after the George Floyd riots,” said Janelle Beenken, who lives downtown and checked out the aftermath before catching the Green Line to work in St. Paul.

Chloe Caplan made a quick trip to Target on Wednesday for a thermometer. She arrived through the parking garage and didn’t notice the large crowds out front. Caplan was halfway up the escalator, when “all of the sudden I heard people screaming and yelling and chanting.”

She looked below to see several young people running through the store. Once they got to the top, they made a break for the elevators to leave the store.

A Target employee ushered Caplan into a closet, where other employees were taking cover. She heard several loud noises, and after 15 minutes they got the all clear. She emerged to see displays knocked over.

“It was very scary. We didn’t know if someone was going to try to break the door down, we had no idea what was going on,” she said. “In hindsight it was not that traumatic, but at the time it was because I had no idea what was going on.”

Around 10 p.m., a crowd remained in the heart of downtown but was mostly peaceful as police blocked off large areas.

The man who died, who was not been identified, was wanted for the slaying of another man earlier that day in a downtown Minneapolis parking garage. He was on foot at 8th Street and Nicollet Mall at 6 p.m. Wednesday. When police pulled up, the suspect ducked into a doorway and shot himself in the head while onlookers scrambled away.

In connection with the parking garage killing, police say three people were in a dispute that turned physical. The man who later killed himself shot another man and fled with a woman, said police spokesman John Elder.

Police soon located and detained the woman “to determine her level of involvement in this shooting,” Elder said shortly before midnight. The suspected shooter, however, kept walking until he showed up on the Nicollet Mall and took his own life, Elder said.

The death of Floyd on May 25 while being detained on the pavement by police at E. 38th Street and S. Chicago Avenue sparked days of rioting in south Minneapolis and St. Paul that left hundreds of properties torched, looted or otherwise damaged. Two deaths have been attributed to the unrest.

Staff writers Andy Mannix, David Chanen, Liz Sawyer and Torey Van Oot contributed to this report.

Paul Walsh • 612-968-2483

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©2020 the Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

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