The tense scene, reminiscent of clashes between police and demonstrators in the aftermath of Floyd’s death, continued into early Thursday and prompted calls for peace from Minneapolis officials anxious to avoid a repeat of the May unrest that left parts of the city burned and destroyed. On Thursday evening, dozens of people began gathering at the gas station again for a vigil.
Seeking to calm tension and increase transparency about the incident, Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo on Thursday afternoon released a 28-second clip of body-camera footage captured by one of the officers at the scene of the shooting, which occurred about 6:15 p.m. on Wednesday.
The chaotic footage shows squad cars trying to box in the driver of a white car in the parking lot of a Holiday gas station as the vehicle attempts to flee.
“Hands up! Police!” an officer, his gun drawn, repeatedly screams.
Arradondo said Thursday that officers were attempting to pull the driver over as part of a “probable cause weapons investigation,” but he told reporters that he was not sure whether there was a warrant for the man’s arrest.
The body-camera footage appears to show the driver fire a shot through his window. An officer shouts an expletive as he and others respond by opening fire, unloading at least a dozen rounds into the car. Police declined to say how many shots were fired or how many officers were involved, citing the investigation.
The Hennepin County medical examiner late Thursday publicly identified the driver as Dolal Bayle Idd, 23, of Eden Prairie, Minn., a suburb of the Twin Cities. The statement said Idd died of multiple gunshot wounds and described his manner of death as “homicide.”
Arradondo told reporters he met privately with the driver’s father and other relatives to offer his condolences and to allow them to view the body camera footage before it was made public. At the same time, he urged the public to remain calm. He said his department would protect the public’s right to “freely assemble and demonstrate” but said he would not tolerate “destructive criminal behavior.”
“Our city has gone through too much,” Arradondo said.
It was the first killing by Minneapolis police since Floyd’s death on Memorial Day. The 46-year-old Black man died after being handcuffed and restrained facedown on a South Minneapolis street by police responding to a 911 call about a counterfeit $20 bill that had been passed at a local convenience store. After a struggle, officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes as Floyd repeatedly said that he couldn’t breathe.
Chauvin, who was with the department for 19 years, has been charged with murder, and three other officers at the scene — J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas K. Lane and Tou Thao — have been charged with aiding and abetting. All four were fired from the police department and are scheduled to go on trial in March.
But in a memo filed Thursday, prosecutors asked the judge overseeing the case to delay the trial until June, citing concerns that the courtroom gatherings and expected protests could become a “superspreader event” amid the ongoing risks of the coronavirus.
“The costs of a covid-related interruption of the trial are likely to be far higher here than in an ordinary trial,” wrote Matthew Frank, Minnesota’s assistant attorney general, who is leading the prosecution’s case.
Defense attorneys filed motions earlier this month to delay the trial, but on accusations that prosecutors are slow-rolling the handoff of key evidence and that they turned over material that was disorganized and riddled with technical issues — claims that prosecutors deny.
Earl Gray, an attorney for Lane, quickly filed an objection to the state’s motion to delay the trial over coronavirus risks. He argued that prosecutors, “although all powerful, cannot see into the future” and reminded the court that jury questionnaires have already been sent out.
Word of the shooting quickly spread on social media, including rumors about the race of the suspect and how many times he had been shot and where. Within hours, a crowd began to gather, including many who had walked over from 38th and Chicago, the site where Floyd was killed.
Mayor Jacob Frey (D) and Arradondo asked the protesters to wait for the results of the investigation. The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension will investigate the shooting, the chief said, and a police union representative told the Star Tribune newspaper that the officers involved were waiting to be interviewed by state investigators.
“Events of this past year have marked some of the darkest days in our city. We know that a life has been cut short and that trust between communities of color and law enforcement is fragile,” Frey said in a statement. “We must all be committed to getting the facts, pursuing justice, and keeping the peace.”
But the scene after the shooting quickly grew tense, exposing the lingering hostility and mutual distrust between police officers and a community that has been engaged in a deeply contentious debate about the future of policing in the city.
The Minneapolis City Council recently voted to strip $8 million out of the city’s police budget, redirecting that money to other city services as part of an effort to “transform” public safety. The vote came as the police department has confronted an unprecedented wave of violence across the city — with 82 people killed and at least 550 people shot this year — and scores of officer departures in recent months.
On Wednesday, many of those tensions were on display — as officers complained to dispatch about the lack of manpower on the ground and pushed for an aggressive response to a crowd that was hostile but not violent.
As protesters shouted anti-police chants and expletives at the officers, a police supervisor issued an order over the radio for all responding officers to turn on their body cameras and “keep them on.”
Soon, officers were saying they felt under siege by demonstrators. One officer asked for permission to fire 40 mm launchers at the protesters who were pelting them with snowballs. A supervisor declined the request.
“These are not to be used on the crowd in general. These are be used to stop imminent physical harm to officers,” the supervisor replied. “That understood?”
Another officer asked for authorization to use “chemical irritants.” The request was initially denied but later approved to stop what a supervisor described as “assaultive conduct” — although it was unclear whether any pepper spray was actually used.
The back-and-forth reflected a change in Minneapolis policy in the aftermath of the Floyd demonstrations, when police were accused of freely firing tear gas and projectiles at peaceful protesters and members of the media. Under new rules approved this summer, the police chief is now required to sign off on the use of “crowd-control weapons.”
Several times, police officers at Wednesday’s scene seemed irritated by limits being placed on them, according to radio dispatch traffic. One demanded more officers. Another complained that they were about to be overrun.
“This crowd is extremely close and hostile toward police,” one officer said over the radio. “If they choose to storm past us, we do not have the resources to hold this crowd back.”
But on the other side of the yellow caution tape, it was demonstrators who were accusing police of escalating tensions by donning riot gear and arriving with tear gas and batons.
“They are the ones out here ready for war. Not us,” one demonstrator shouted at police. “They are the only ones who’ve got on the helmets. They are the only ones who’ve got the mace out and the billy clubs and the sticks.”
The clash came on one of the coldest nights of the Minnesota winter so far — with temperatures dipping to 10 degrees. Many on the scene wore heavy coats and winter boots as they stood in a street partly covered with ice and snow from storms in recent days. As city officials appealed for peace, the only fire that erupted was a bonfire built in the middle of the street to keep demonstrators warm.
Tim Elfrink contributed to this report.