MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey condemned Thursday the behavior of city police officers seen in newly-released body camera footage, which showed them joking about “hunting” protesters during the nights of unrest following George Floyd’s murder.
In a social media post, the mayor called the officers’ actions and language “antithetical to the department we are striving to build. Period.” Yet, Frey said he couldn’t offer any other details or comment on the videos as investigations into what happened during those nights last May are still underway.
The mayor said that neither he, nor any other elected official, could speak on those cases, as doing so could open the city up to lawsuits and make accountability for any officer in the videos less likely.
“I’m just not willing to trade accountability in these cases for a political win, and that is simply the unfortunate choice that this Byzantine set of laws creates,” he said, after outlining the complicated process by which an officer can be investigated for misconduct.
The newly-released footage shows officers enforcing curfew with less lethal ammunition on May 30, 2020, five days after George Floyd was murdered by a former Minneapolis police officer. At one point, there’s laughter as one of the officers lands a direct hit on a protester. At another moment, an officer impersonates the “Looney Tunes” character Elmer Fudd.
“Be vewwy, vewwy quiet,” he says, laughing. “We’re hunting activists!”
The video was released by the attorney of Jaleel Stallings, a veteran, who fired back at officers with a gun he’s permitted to carry. The video shows the officers firing at Stallings from an unmarked white van. Once he was on the ground, officers rushed at him and beat him for about 30 seconds.
Stallings was acquitted of attempted murder and other charges against him last month. He testified that he was shooting in self-defense. When WCCO-TV reached out to Minneapolis police about the video footage, a spokesperson said they couldn’t comment due to an ongoing internal investigation.
Since Floyd’s murder and the unrest in the Twin Cities, the future of the Minneapolis Police Department has become a topic of heated debate and national news headlines. For Frey, who is seeking re-election next month, has stood firmly against defunding or dismantling the department, particularly since the city has experienced a surge in homicides.
“I’ve been clear that we need to have BOTH accountability AND safety,” he wrote Thursday. “There are no magic wand solutions to the challenges we face. The only way to fix these problems is by coming together to do the hard work of breaking down structural barriers to accountability.”