Protests against the death of a Minnesota man, George Floyd, have turned to destruction and the Minneapolis Police Department 3rd Police Precinct building was set ablaze Thursday night.
Floyd was killed on Monday while in police custody on suspicions he passed off a counterfeit $20 bill, KTVQ news reported. Videos showed an officer, identified as Derek Chauvin, holding Floyd to the ground with a knee against the back of his neck, closing his airway. Protests have mounted in response to Floyd’s death, and the Police Department’s 3rd Precinct building was set on fire Thursday night.
Rioters on the streets broke into the precinct around 10 p.m. Thursday night, after police on the rooftop attempted to disperse the surrounding protests with tear gas and “flash bangs,” Fox News reported. Police were evacuated by helicopter from the building’s roof before the rioters breached the building and started the fire.
“This is the moment when Minneapolis police officers abandoned the 3rd precinct building. Rioters chased them as they left and continued to throw objects at the police vehicles,” Townhall reporter Julio Rosas tweeted, with video of police vehicle leaving the precinct.
This is the moment when Minneapolis police officers abandoned the 3rd precinct building. Rioters chased them as they left and continued to throw objects at the police vehicles. pic.twitter.com/KoxAAYiUIN
— Julio Rosas (@Julio_Rosas11) May 29, 2020
The fire raised the risk for a potential explosion, with gas lines to the precinct reportedly having been cut and other explosive materials potentially being on hand at the building.
“We’re hearing unconfirmed reports that gas lines to the Third Precinct have been cut and other explosive materials are in the building,” the City of Minneapolis Twitter account warned. “If you are near the building, for your safety, PLEASE RETREAT in the event the building explodes.”
We’re hearing unconfirmed reports that gas lines to the Third Precinct have been cut and other explosive materials are in the building.
If you are near the building, for your safety, PLEASE RETREAT in the event the building explodes.
— City of Minneapolis (@CityMinneapolis) May 29, 2020
The fires at the police precinct came a day after looting at a nearby Target store down the street. People were seen smashing the store’s windows and carrying merchandise out on Wednesday.
The four officers involved in Floyd’s arrest and eventual death in police custody have already been fired, The Hill reported Wednesday, and President Donald Trump called for the FBI and Department of Justice to expedite their investigations into Floyd’s death. Despite the actions taken, protests have continued.
Fires were first seen being started in the parking lot of the police precinct on Thursday night, according to WCCO – CBS Minnesota News. Burning debris was then heaped at the front of the building. Some in the gathered crowd could be seen firing off fireworks towards the building’s rooftop. Green lasers were also seen flashing at helicopters flying overhead.
In an update from WCCO – CBS Minnesota News, Minneapolis Fire Chief John Fruetel said firefighters tried to get in to put out the fire but had to pull back from what he described as an “untenable” situation.
“We’ve had rocks and different types of projectiles thrown at us the last couple nights and it’s made it very challenging,” Fruetel said. “And certainly our number one priority is the safety of our firefighters.”
Fruetel said in other situations police and National Guardsmen have been activated to escort his firefighters into sites and establish a safe perimeter for them to put out fires.
Another building near the precinct was also seen on fire. Fox 9 identified the burning building as a nearby AutoZone auto parts store.