Authorities found the charred body of a man in the wreckage of a south Minneapolis pawnshop, nearly two months after the building was torched in the rioting that followed George Floyd’s death.
Investigators from the Minneapolis Police Department, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the state fire marshal’s division were acting on a tip when they discovered the body Monday morning in the rubble of Max It Pawn, at 2726 E. Lake St., according to Police Department spokesman John Elder.
“The body appears to have suffered thermal injury and we do have somebody charged with setting fire to that place,” said Elder, adding that city homicide detectives had taken over the investigation. He said that the victim’s identity would be released by medical examiners after an autopsy is completed, along with the precise cause and manner of death.
The site is several blocks east of the shuttered Third Precinct police station, the epicenter of the protests that broke out after Floyd’s death May 25 under the knee of a since-fired city police officer. That officer, Derek Chauvin, is charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter, and three other officers at the scene, J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao, are charged with aiding and abetting Chauvin.
Details about the circumstances and timeline of the case remained hazy Monday, but a police news release suggested that the man died in the blaze that destroyed the building on May 28.
A 25-year-old Rochester man, Montez Terrill Lee, was federally charged last month with arson in connection with the fire.
According to the criminal complaint against Lee, ATF investigators received video from an anonymous source of an arson that occurred at the pawnshop. In the first clip, a masked man, later identified as Lee, is seen pouring liquid from a metal container throughout the pawnshop. A second video shows Lee standing in front of the burning pawnshop saying “[Expletive] this place. We’re gonna burn this [expletive] down.”
Ashlee Sherrill, a spokesperson for the ATF, said that she couldn’t comment on what remained an open case. The agency has opened dozens of arson investigations into incidents that occurred during the unrest.
“The ATF is continuing to work these arson investigations across the Twin Cities and following up on these leads as they become available,” she said.
Several days after that fire, firefighters scoured the remains of a nearby liquor store after witnesses reported that someone inside hadn’t made it out when the building was torched. But their search didn’t turn up anything. It wasn’t clear whether the two reports are connected, as the apparently missing man from the liquor store was never identified publicly.
If the death is ruled a homicide, it would the city’s 36th of the year — compared with 18 at this time last year.
It would also be at least the second fatality connected to the riots. In the first, John Rieple, 59, the owner of Cadillac Pawn at 1538 E. Lake St., was arrested after shooting and killing a man outside of his business, but was later released. No charges have been filed. Relatives of the victim, Calvin “Chuck” Horton Jr., 43, has cast doubt on the initial account that Horton was killed while looting the store.