Two law enforcement agencies acknowledged Monday that officers patrolling Minneapolis during the height of recent protests knifed the tires of numerous vehicles parked and unoccupied in at least two locations in the midst of the unrest.
Video and photo images posted on the news outlet Mother Jones show officers in military-style uniforms puncturing tires in the Kmart parking lot at Lake Street and Nicollet Avenue on May 30.
Images from S. Washington Avenue at Interstate 35W also showed officers with knives deflating the tires of two unoccupied cars with repeated jabs on May 31. Department of Public Safety spokesman Bruce Gordon confirmed that tires were cut in “a few locations.”
“State Patrol troopers strategically deflated tires … in order to stop behaviors such as vehicles driving dangerously and at high speeds in and around protesters and law enforcement,” Gordon said.
Gordon said the patrol also targeted vehicles “that contained items used to cause harm during violent protests” such as rocks, concrete and sticks.
“While not a typical tactic, vehicles were being used as dangerous weapons and inhibited our ability to clear areas and keep areas safe where violent protests were occurring,” he said. As in all operations of this size, there will be a review about how these decisions were made.”
Deputies from Anoka County followed state orders and joined the patrol and also cut the tires on vehicles on Washington Avenue, said Anoka County Sheriff’s Lt. Andy Knotz.
Knotz said the deputies got their directions from the state-led Multiagency Command Center [MACC], which was coordinating law enforcement during the protests connected to the death on May 25 of George Floyd.
Towing the vehicles was not an option, Knotz said, because “you could not get any tow trucks in there” because of the mass of people in the area.
The state said later claims for damages can be submitted. Anoka County said no claims for reimbursement will be offered for its deputies actions.
Val Ebertz, who was at the protests, witnessed police slashing tires in the Kmart parking lot at Lake Street and Nicollet Avenue in the midst of protests on May 30.
She added these were the same officers who “were tear-gassing and shooting us with rubber bullets to try to push us farther back into the Kmart parking lot.”
Kyla Cook was with Ebertz and said “all of us were in shock” when she and others in the Kmart lot saw one member from a line of officers in riot gear knife the tires of an unattended pickup truck.
Among the vehicle owners whose tires were damaged was Star Tribune reporter Chris Serres, who was covering the protests the night of May 30 and returned to the Kmart lot about 1 a.m. to find that his car was among a few dozen with flattened tires.
“As far as I could see, it looked like all their tires had been slashed,” Serres said.
Los Angeles documentary and television producer Andrew Kimmel said his tires were similarly slashed while parked in the Kmart lot. His video of the damage on Twitter has been viewed more than 1.25 million times as of Monday afternoon.
“It was every single car that was in the parking lot,” said Kimmel, who has covered more than 100 protests in the past several years and added, “I’ve never seen the tire slashing before, particularly in a parking lot.”
Spokesmen for the Minneapolis Police Department, Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office and the National Guard said their personnel were not the ones shown damaging tires in the videos and photos that are making the rounds on social media.
Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482