MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Police in St. Cloud say an officer was shot in the hand overnight while trying to arrest an armed teenage suspect.
However, on social media, the story was markedly different, with various accounts alleging that police had shot a black teenager.
Coming exactly three weeks after the death of George Floyd while in Minneapolis police custody, the rumors instantly sparked rage in the central Minnesota college town. Police say a group of about 100 people marched to the city’s police station in the early morning hours, perhaps with the intention of taking the building.
Police say some in the group threw rocks at the police station and damaged other nearby buildings. Police used tear gas to break up the crowd. The unrest resulted in four arrests.
Police Chief Blair Anderson said in a Monday morning press conference the situation could have ended differently, as the officers involved would have been justified in using deadly force.
“It is abhorrent to me that within minutes, the story that went out went out. This place could have been on fire over a lie,” Anderson said. “You want to see what community policing looks like? Come to St. Cloud and we’ll show you.”
The leader of the local NAACP chapter was also at the press conference, and commended the officers for showing remarkable restraint.
Police say the officer had been one to respond shortly after midnight to the 1000 block of 10th Avenue South after a social media post showed someone in the area with a gun. Officers confronted the suspect, an 18-year-old black man, who ran off. Police quickly caught up to him and attempted to arrest him, but a struggle ensued.
Amid the struggle, the man pulled out a handgun and shot one of the officers in the hand. Officers did not return fire, and they were able to get the man under control. One gun was recovered at the scene, and another was recovered in the yard of a residence near the scene.
Emergency crews brought the wounded officer, who has not been identified, to St. Cloud Hospital, where he underwent surgery. He is a 14-year veteran of the department.
The suspect, an 18-year-old from St. Cloud, was also brought to the hospital. Both the officer’s and the suspect’s injuries are considered non-life threatening.
The suspect was arrested on probable cause second-degree assault. He will be booked into the Stearns County Jail following his release from the hospital.
The St. Cloud Police Department does not use body cameras. The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is investigating the shooting.
The incident in St. Cloud comes amid unrest across the U.S. over police killings of African Americans.
In the immediate aftermath of Floyd’s death in Minneapolis, rioters looted and burned dozens of buildings, including the Third Precinct police station in south Minneapolis. Meanwhile, peaceful protesters have continued to demonstrate almost daily in the Twin Cities and in cities across the world.
The protests have prompted several Minnesota lawmakers to push for police reform, including Gov. Tim Walz. Some, such as members of the Minneapolis City Council, are calling for police to be defunded and dismantled, replaced by a new apparatus for community safety.
Three weeks ago, #GeorgeFloyd’s death was filmed and MPD’s Chief praised social media for revealing truth.
Today, St. Cloud’s Chief condemned social media for wrongly accusing officers of shooting Black men. Info was up for 3 hours before PD clarified.
Both can be valid.#wcco
— Christiane Cordero (@ChristianeWCCO) June 15, 2020