Armed citizens guard stores amid looting in Minneapolis: report

USA

At least one group of armed men have been seen standing outside a strip mall in Minneapolis on Wednesday night amid intensifying protests in the city and looting.

Protests erupted Tuesday after video emerged of a police officer with his knee pressed against George Floyd’s neck while the man was in custody. Protesters have called for the officers involved to be charged in his death.

Police responded to reports of a stabbing victim near the protests and discovered the man had been shot. He later died, police said.  One suspect is in custody. A reporter from the Star Tribune tweeted that police are “working through the “theory” of this homicide being related to a report of a Minneapolis pawn shop owner shooting a looter.”

Max Nesterak, a reporter at the Minnesota Reformer, interviewed a group of armed men outside a tobacconist who said they agree with the protests but not the looting. They said police in the city have been overextended and they stopped at the tobacco shop because they were told that the business owners were desperate to protect their store.

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“These guys are out here with machetes, with shattered windows trying to keep looters out because cops can’t get in here,” one of the armed men said. “So I figured before there were cops, there were Americans. So here we are.”

Another armed man said, “We definitely don’t agree with the looting, but we do agree with the cause and the protest.”

Some commenters on social media worried that armed citizens could escalate the situation.

Looting has been recorded at a Target store off East Lake Street and an AutoZone was set on fire near a police precinct.

Officers could be seen surrounding the precinct but did not attempt to intervene in the looting. Earlier, some protesters skirmished with officers, who fired rubber bullets and tear gas in a repeat of Tuesday night’s confrontation.

Fox 9 Minneapolis reported that fire crews worked to put out the fire at AutoZone, which is close to the Minneapolis Police Department’s Third Precinct. Gov. Tim Walz took to Twitter late Wednesday to tell people in the area to leave and called the unfolding situation “extremely dangerous.”

“For everyone’s safety, please leave the area and allow firefighters and paramedics to get to the scene,” he posted. Other stores that were involved in looting included a Cub Foods and a Dollar Tree.

Fox News’ Mike Tobin, reporting live from a protest, said he was caught in the crossfire and said he felt pepper spray get into his eyes.

“Some of the flashbangs have been deployed, primarily from the police on the rooftop,” Tobin said at one point, standing with a news camera and microphone between the lines of protesters and police officers.

Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, died in police custody and a citizen’s cell phone video showed an officer kneeling on Floyd ‘s neck for almost eight minutes as he eventually became unresponsive. Floyd was pronounced dead at the hospital. Police had responded to an alleged forgery taking place. A man matching Floyd’s description allegedly used a counterfeit bill.

The officer and three others were fired Tuesday, and on Wednesday, Mayor Jacob Frey called for him to be criminally charged. Federal investigators have joined the investigation into Floyd’s death.

Protesters also gathered Wednesday evening at the officer’s suburban home as well as the Minneapolis home of Mike Freeman, the Hennepin County prosecutor who would make a charging decision in the case. No violence was reported in those protests.

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The FBI has been called in to aid local police in the investigation into Floyd’s death, which immediately drew comparisons to the case of Eric Garner, an unarmed black man who died in 2014 in New York after he was placed in a chokehold by police and pleaded for his life, heard in another video saying, “I can’t breathe.”

Fox News’ Danielle Wallace and the Associated Press contributed to this report

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