Mother Jones and the Minneapolis Star Tribune report that during the most intense period of protests in Minneapolis over the death of George Floyd, police officers from two departments were filmed slashing tires in at least two locations. Authorities used the tactic to disable cars in a Kmart parking lot that had become a staging point for protesters and police, and at another street location about three miles away — with dozen of vehicles said to be damaged.
The Star Tribune identified officers from the Minnesota State Patrol and the Anoka County Sheriff's Office in the videos. A spokesman with the Department of Public Safety told the newspaper the State Patrol "strategically deflated tires ... in order to stop behaviors such as vehicles driving dangerously and at high speeds in and around protesters and law enforcement,” and to render ineffective any cars "that contained items used to cause harm during violent protests." The paper said such items included "rocks, concrete and sticks."
A lieutenant with the sheriff's office said the force was following orders from the Multiagency Command Center (MACC), a state agency organizing law enforcement response to the protests. Anoka County covers the northwest portion of Minneapolis, while Hennepin County — the most populous in the state — covers the majority of Minnesota. Spokespeople for the Minneapolis Police Department, Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office, and Minnesota National Guard denied responsibility for any tire slashing.
Victims at both locations included credentialed press, including a Star Tribune reporter, some of whom uploaded video of the aftermath to Twitter, such as ex-Buzzfeed video exec and documentary producer Andrew Kimmel. He said he's been to more than 100 protests in the past few years as part of his work, and has "never seen the tire slashing before, particularly in a parking lot." Another was New Yorker magazine reporter Luke Mogelson, who said an officer took a photo of his press pass and promised to alert other police not to touch his car. Mogelson returned to four flat tires and officers who "were laughing. ... They had grins on their faces."
In the aftermath, when Mother Jones asked a tow truck driver "whose cars were being towed, the tow truck driver said, 'Everybody. Medics over there. News crews. Random people that were just here to protest and — tires slashed.'”
The State Patrol spokesperson admitted the knifings weren't "a typical tactic," but that "vehicles were being used as dangerous weapons and inhibited our ability to clear areas and keep areas safe where violent protests were occurring." At some point, "As in all operations of this size, there will be a review about how these decisions were made."