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Federal authorities pledge ‘robust’ investigation into George Floyd’s death; Minnesota National Guard activated: What we know

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George Floyd’s death has caused hundreds of protesters to take over the streets all over the U.S. including Minneapolis, Memphis and Los Angeles.

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MINNEAPOLIS — Grief and anger have turned to violence and clashes with police in Minneapolis and Saint Paul as tense protests continue following the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man who was pinned down by a white police officer who held his knee to Floyd’s neck.

Federal and state authorities on Thursday promised a swift and thorough investigation as the city’s leaders called for peace to be restored and Gov. Tim Walz signed an executive order to activate the Minnesota National Guard.

“That video is graphic and horrific and terrible and no person should do that,” Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said at a press conference. He said investigators needed time to determine if the video showed a criminal offense: “We have to do this right.”

Four officers were fired shortly after video of the encounter spread on social media showing Floyd struggling and telling the officers he couldn’t breathe.

Investigators took an unusual step in announcing an in-progress federal investigation, U.S. Attorney Erica MacDonald said. She joined Freeman and other officials in offering condolences to Floyd’s family and pleading for peaceful protests.

Calling the Floyd’s death a “disturbing” loss of life, MacDonald promised a “a robust and meticulous investigation” and said the Department of Justice is making the case a “top priority.” 

Floyd’s death has sparked a national outcry for justice in other cities, as well.

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Here’s what we know Thursday:

Minnesota National Guard activated

Gov. Tim Walz signed an executive order to activate the Minnesota National Guard, a move that came at the request of local leaders after “peaceful protests evolved into a dangerous situation for protesters and first responders,” according to a release.

“As George Floyd’s family has said, ‘Floyd would not want people to get hurt. He lived his life protecting people.’ Let’s come together to rebuild, remember, and seek justice for George Floyd,” the release quotes Walz.

The order also declares a peacetime emergency, allowing the a State Emergency Operations Center to be activated. The center is also involved in coordinating support amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The National Guard will work to protect peaceful demonstrators and small business owners, Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan said, according to a in the release.

Police report continued violence, looting Thursday

Police say they are working to disperse crowds in Saint Paul on Thursday afternoon amid reports of looting and violence. 

“Officers are giving dispersal orders to groups gathered in various areas of the city, damaging property and attempting to steal from businesses,” the Saint Paul Police Department tweeted.

Minutes later, the department tweeted: “Officers are having rocks, liquor bottles and bricks thrown at them in the area of the Target on University Avenue.”

A video tweeted by Minnesota Public Radio reporter Tim Nelson shows a large crowd clashing with a police presence outside the store.

A short distance away from that location, cars lined up to Big Top liquors, where cases of alcohol were unloaded out of a back door in broad daylight. Three officers huddled by a nearby GNC store watched from about 100 yards away, but did not intervene.

Metro Transit of Minneapolis and St. Paul says bus and light rail service will be suspended starting at 4 p.m. through Thursday “out of concern for the safety of our riders and our employees.”

Minneapolis still reels; mayor says feeling sadness and anger is ‘right’

Smoke still billowed from buildings Thursday morning after another night of protests.

A video shared on Twitter by Minnesota Public Radio photojournalist Evan Frost showed people gathering again outside police’s Third Precinct by mid-morning. Officers stood with face shields around the building and on its roof.

Photos from journalists around Minneapolis showed buildings burnt, windows smashed, debris thrown about and empty store shelves from overnight looting.

At a press conference Thursday afternoon, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said that he was authorizing the use of a central command so that Minneapolis police could restore peace and security in the city.

Frey said he understood that the anger and sadness that led to protests has been “built up” over 400 years and comes not just from Floyd’s death. “If you’re feeling that sadness and that anger, it’s not only understandable, it’s right,” Frey said.

“We must restore the peace so that we can do this hard work together,” Frey said. “This could be a point in time, when several years from now, we can look back to know that we rose to right the wrongs of the past. Not just with words but with action.”

During the news conference, Minneapolis Council Vice President Andrea Jenkins sang the opening of “Amazing Grace.”

“We feel as if there was a knee on all of our collective necks – a knee that says black life does not matter,” Jenkins said.

Jenkins said city leaders would be working with black community leaders to set up a “healing space” at the site of the third precinct, where people could gather to “grieve, express their concerns, their anger, in a safe and humane way.”

Police Chief Medaria Arradondo said the majority of protests were peaceful, some of the protesters “were not recognized” as being from the city.

“The vast majority of our Minneapolis community was not participating in the criminal conduct that occurred last night,” Arradondo said.

Clashes between police, protesters as flames, looting engulf Minneapolis

The Minneapolis Fire Department said in a statement Thursday that firefighters responded to approximately 30 fires overnight, including at least 16 structure fires.

The department said no civilians or firefighters were injured in the blazes, but protesters hurled rocks and projectiles at fire vehicles. Assistant Chief Bryan Tyner said in an email that he wasn’t sure how many fires were set individually versus jumping from building to building.

Photos shared on social media showed massive flames, including a building under construction.

Star Tribune video journalist Mark Vancleave tweeted that neighbors sprayed their homes with garden houses to try to stop the flames from spreading to other structures.

An AutoZone store was also ablaze, and many smaller stores appeared to have windows shattered. Videos showed a nearby Target being looted.

Vancleave also tweeted that protesters lit fireworks toward police. Officers were in riot gear, and the National Guard was called out to the local police precinct, the Star Tribune reported.

At one point, officers fired noise devices and projectiles toward a crowd of dozens gathered outside the Third Precinct. The nonlethal shots were fired after a group of protesters rolled dumpsters onto the street.

The protests continued for hours, with some throwing objects at police and officers spraying water from low-pressure hoses to keep control.

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Other videos in Floyd’s death

New cellphone, surveillance and body camera videos released since the original video of Floyd’s death show the details surrounding how police arrested and detained Floyd.

One video shows Minneapolis police officers pulling Floyd from a blue Mercedes SUV as they put handcuffs on him.

Minneapolis police’s statement about Floyd’s arrest says that “he physically resisted officers” after getting out of the vehcile, however, the video shows two officers grabbing Floyd and pulling him from the vehicle.

Another surveillance video shows the officers handcuffing Floyd and walking him toward the wall of a building. Floyd sits handcuffed on the ground before an officer lifts him up. Floyd appears to speak with the officer though there is no sound. Another officer walks over and they both bring Floyd across the street.

KARE 11 reported that the video came from Dragon Wok, a business at the intersection where Floyd was arrested.

Minneapolis Park Police also released heavily redacted body camera footage from an officer who arrived at the scene. KMSP-TV reported that the park police officer was responding to a request for assistance from Minneapolis Police but not involved in Floyd’s arrest. Video shows the officer standing by the car from which Floyd was arrested.

George Floyd’s brother: Minneapolis police ‘executed my brother’

In an interview with CNN Thursday morning, Philonise Floyd, George Floyd’s brother, also called for peaceful protests in Minneapolis.

Philonise Floyd said he wanted to see the officers involved arrested immediately. The four officers were identified Wednesday, but no charges have been filed despite pleas from the Floyd family, Frey and others in the city.

“These officers, they need to be arrested right now. They need to be arrested and held accountable for everything,” Floyd told CNN.

Asked whether he had seen the video of the officer holding his knee to his brother’s neck, Floyd said, holding back tears: “I watched the video. It was hard but I had to watch the video. As I watched the video, those four officers, they executed my brother.”

Ben Crump, an attorney representing the Floyd family, told CNN that the family would be seeking an independent autopsy. The city has not yet released an autopsy report in Floyd’s death.

“They offered him no humanity while keeping his knee on his neck. Members of the public were the only ones trying to deescalate the situation. Not the police,” Crump said.

Jesse Jackson: George Floyd could have been any one of my sons

Rev. Jesse Jackson urged further “disciplined” protests and came to Minnesota on Thursday to speak with religious leaders.

Jackson, 78, speaking with USA TODAY, implored Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman to press charges against the four officers.

“You murder somebody, you don’t get fired, you get charged with murder,” Jackson said. “If Floyd had done this to a white person, he’d be in jail today, bond too high to reach.”

Jackson said Floyd could have been any one of his three sons, who are near the age of Floyd, who was 46.

Protesters should continue to take action until charges are announced, Jackson said. He said black people have been “brutalized without consequence” for decades. Damaging demonstrations, which included looted businesses and burnt buildings Wednesday, are the result of decades of military-like policing tactics all across the country, Jackson said. 

“I understand the pain and the frustration. Seeing as all else has failed, they need this to get attention,” he added.

Previous complaints had been filed against fired Minneapolis officers

Police identified the officers Wednesday as Derek Chauvin, Thomas Lane, Tou Thao and J. Alexander Kueng. Attorney Tom Kelly said he was representing Chauvin, the officer seen with his knee on Floyd’s neck.

The service records of the four officers involved in the incident were no longer public, as they were part of the ongoing investigation, Minneapolis police said Wednesday.

According to The Associated Press, Chauvin was one of six officers who fired their weapons in the 2006 death of Wayne Reyes, who police said pointed a sawed-off shotgun at officers after stabbing two people. Chauvin also shot and wounded a man in 2008 in a struggle after Chauvin and his partner responded to a reported domestic assault.

In 2011, Chauvin was one of several officers put on temporary leave after a police shooting in a residential community, according to local news reports.

Thao was sued for excessive use of force in 2017, according to the Star-Tribune.

Several complaints have been filed against both officers, according to Communities United Against Police Brutality, a Twin-Cities based organization. Chauvin received three oral reprimands as well as seven other closed complaints for which he was not disciplined. Thao was not disciplined in five closed complaints. One case remains open.

Minnesota politicians ‘outraged’ by George Floyd’s death

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison said on on SiriusXM’s “The Joe Madison Show” said that he was worried about both under or over charging the officers invovled in the case.

“I will tell you that if this was just charged, if the top count was negligent homicide, that would be a shame,” Ellison said. Ellison also said that if charges are filed and the case were to go to trial, he wouldn’t support moving the trial to a different jurisdiction. He said he wanted “a just outcome.”

“Don’t you remember Rodney King? You know, those guys were acquitted. The guy who killed Walter Scott, that jury was a hung jury. We’ve got to make sure this thing is done right if you want to make things go according to a just outcome,” he said.

“Speechless” and “outraged” were the words state Sen. Jeff Hayden, representing the southern Minneapolis district where George Floyd was killed, used to describe his feelings of Floyd’s death.

“Every Minnesotan should feel safe in their community and every part of our state,” said Hayden, a Democrat who represents District 62. “This tragedy has left our entire community in grief.”

One of Hayden’s concerns was the power of the Minneapolis Police Department’s union, saying the organization is “part of the problem” when trying to weed out bad officers.

Hayden implored people to focus on justice for Floyd as opposed to the damage to property.

“Not that we wanted (businesses destroyed) but they can be rebuilt. We can’t bring back Mr. Floyd,” he said.

Contributing: The Associated Press

Follow USA TODAY’s Ryan Miller on Twitter @RyanW_Miller

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