The mother of a man shot to death during citywide unrest in the wake of George Floyd’s death said Tuesday that she wants justice for her son, Calvin L. Horton Jr.
That means criminal charges filed against the store owner who killed him, said Mae Roberts, of Little Rock, Ark.
The death of Horton on May 27 occurred two days after Floyd was killed by police, prompting protests, arson and looting along East Lake Street. The details of the shooting remain a mystery, but authorities allege that Horton was shot by Cadillac Pawn & Jewelry owner John Rieple outside the store. Rieple was arrested and then released without charges as the investigation continued.
“This shouldn’t be,” Roberts said. “The only thing I want is justice. Nothing is being done for my son.”
Her plea came on the same day that police and prosecutors said they want to hear from anyone who was in or near the pawnshop just before or immediately after the shooting. The office of Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said investigators have located just one witness who saw part of the incident and have yet to find any surveillance video connected to the shooting.
Standing near the spot along East Lake Street where Horton died, Roberts and Horton’s children made their case Tuesday with the help of their attorney, Ben Crump, who is also the attorney for Floyd’s family.
Crump said Horton’s family doesn’t believe the official account of his death. The Hennepin County medical examiner reported that Horton was shot in the chest and upper extremities, but Horton’s family said that after seeing the body, they believe he was shot in the back. The family says they have social media evidence that Rieple was safely inside his store when he shot at the crowd outside, striking Horton, said Crump.
“If we allow business owners to shoot Black people for protesting for Black Lives Matter, then what kind of message are we sending to the world?” said Crump.
Horton, who grew up in Minneapolis from about the age of 10, had seven children, all of whom attended the news conference. His daughter Cadaezhah Horton, 20, said the family is heartbroken that Rieple is still free. Cadaezhah Horton said she saw social media video of her father lying dead on the street but didn’t realize at first that it was him.
“His life mattered to me and my six brothers and sisters,” she said, adding that her youngest brothers, 8-year-old twins Cavon and Calvon, don’t understand what happened. “They just know their dad is gone and that’s it.”
Horton’s family planned to hold a 6 p.m. vigil and march Tuesday starting at Cadillac Pawn at 1538 E. Lake St. Tuesday would have been Horton’s 44th birthday.
Civil rights attorney Nekima Levy Armstrong, who spoke after Crump, said Horton’s death is like many other cases in Minneapolis in which Black victims are treated differently from white victims.
“As African Americans living here, we have tried to tell the public, we have tried to tell people who work in and outside of the system, that we have two different justice systems, one for Black people, one for white people, both separate and unequal,” said Levy Armstrong.
She called for the end of Freeman’s term as Hennepin County Attorney and said Gov. Tim Walz and Attorney General Keith Ellison should take over the Horton case. Ellison has stepped into the prosecution of four former police officers charged in Floyd’s killing.
The side of the pawnshop facing East Lake Street remains boarded up. The shop suffered significant damage and was looted on the night Horton was killed. Rieple, 59, of Galesville, Wis., could not be reached Tuesday for comment.
Freeman’s office issued a statement Tuesday outlining some of the investigatory challenges police faced immediately after the shooting.
“The scene was chaotic that night, with many people in and around the pawnshop,” the statement says. “Some of those people pelted police officers as they tried to render first aid to Mr. Horton, and attacked them with objects again after the ambulance left and they tried to investigate the crime scene. The officers retreated and investigators were unable to safely return to the crime scene until the next day.”
Freeman said authorities want to hear from anyone who was in or near the pawnshop from shortly before Horton was shot until immediately afterward. Those with information about the shooting are asked to contact CrimeStoppers at 1-800-222-8477 or at crimestoppersmn.org.
Rieple opened Cadillac Pawn in 1990. While the Star Tribune generally does not identify people who have not been charged with a crime, it is doing so with Rieple because his identity as the owner of the pawnshop and his involvement in Horton’s death have been widely publicized.
Staff writers Paul Walsh and David Chanen contributed to this report.