Update, 6/8/20: The Star Tribune has identified the officers puncturing tires as state troopers and deputies from the Anoka County Sheriff’s Office. The officers strategically deflated the tires to “stop behaviors such as vehicles driving dangerously and at high speeds in and around protesters and law enforcement,” said Minnesota Department of Public Safety spokesperson Bruce Gordon. The troopers reportedly targeted cars that “contained items used to cause harm during violent protests” such as rocks and concrete. The Anoka County Sheriff’s Lt. Andy Knotz said deputies were following directions from the state-led Multiagency Command Center.
After long nights of tear gas and rubber bullets, some protesters, news crews, and medics in Minneapolis last weekend found themselves stranded: The tires of their cars had been slashed.
In a city upended by protests about police brutality after the death of George Floyd, many assumed protesters were to blame. But videos reveal a different culprit: the police.
In the videos, officers puncture tires in a K-Mart parking lot on May 30 and a highway overpass on May 31. Both areas briefly turned into police staging grounds near protest hot spots.
The officers appear to be state troopers or county police, though it’s not clear from the videos. Neither the Minnesota State Patrol nor the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office responded to requests from Mother Jones. The Minneapolis Police Department and Minnesota National Guard denied involvement.
The gray car in the video above was the rental car of Luke Mogelson, a New Yorker writer who typically covers war zones and is now stationed in Minneapolis to write about the protests. As the protest on Sunday evening turned hairy, with law enforcement tear-gassing peaceful groups soon after curfew, Mogelson went to check on his car, showing his press pass to officers along the way. (Media were exempt from the curfew.) One officer took a picture of his press pass and said he would “radio it up the chain so everyone knew that car belonged to the press,” said Mogelson. When he came back later that evening to retrieve his car, officers informed him that the tires were punctured. “They were laughing,” Mogelson recalled. “They had grins on their faces.”
Mogelson was among many journalists who came back to flat tires after the protests.
‼️THE POLICE SLASHED THIS TRUCKS TIRES‼️ all the protestors left the Kmart area as soon as they got closer. #MinneapolisRiot pic.twitter.com/eTGrHUUZLA
— brandi (@brandiiimariiie) May 31, 2020
Minneapolis Police slashed every tire on my rental car, as well as every tire of every car in this parking lot. pic.twitter.com/lchFplYQ0n
— Andrew Kimmel (@andrewkimmel) May 31, 2020
Radio-Canada journalists covering the protests in Minneapolis had their tires slashed. Witnesses told them police did it. https://t.co/9YwfcClMoq
— Sean Craig (@sdbcraig) May 31, 2020
Cops in Minneapolis shot my friend, the photographer @philip_nyc, in the chest, with a rubber bullet, causing bruising over his heart. They also slashed his tires.
Follow his work here: https://t.co/xF8CtHXE8l pic.twitter.com/JzOd2GogKY
— Ben Taub (@bentaub91) June 2, 2020
“We’re so busy, it’s just unbelievable,” said a tow truck driver in an interview from the K-Mart parking lot with Andrew Kimmel, formerly the head of BuzzFeed’s video team. The towing company had received “call after call after call.” Asked whose cars were being towed, the tow truck driver said, “Everybody. Medics over there. News crews. Random people that were just here to protest and—tires slashed.”