Simmering racial tensions boiled over yet again Monday night when several men shot five people who had been protesting the recent police killing of an African American man in Minneapolis. Police on Tuesday afternoon said they had arrested two suspects and were seeking others.
On Monday night, five people suffered non-life-threatening gunshot injuries when at least one person opened fire on a crowd outside the Minneapolis Police Department’s 4th Precinct building, authorities said. Afterward, police said they were searching for “3 white male suspects” who fled the scene.
By Tuesday afternoon, police said they had arrested a 32-year-old Hispanic man in South Minneapolis and a 23-year-old white man in nearby Bloomington. The suspects were not identified and no other details were released.
“We are sparing no efforts to bring any and all those responsible to justice,” Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges (D) said on social media, where she called the shooting “abhorrent.”
Protesters have been camping out in front of the 4th Precinct since Nov. 15, when two Minneapolis police officers were involved in the contentious killing of 24-year-old Jamar Clark.
“Tonight, white supremacists attacked the #4thPrecinctShutDown in an act of domestic terrorism,” Black Lives Matter Minneapolis said on Facebook. “We won’t be intimidated.”
Although Clark’s family called for an end to the protests after the recent shooting, Black Lives Matter Minneapolis vowed to return to the 4th Precinct on Tuesday for another demonstration. Throughout the morning, protesters continued to gather outside the police station.
Federal authorities said Tuesday that they knew about the shooting and were working with local police during the investigation.
“The Department of Justice is aware of the incident and is coordinating with the Minneapolis Police Department to assess the evidence and determine if federal action is appropriate,” the department said in a statement.
About 10:40 p.m. Monday, police responded to the scene, about one block from the police station. Soon, 911 calls started to pour in, police said.
A video from a journalist at the scene showed people fleeing, then screaming for an ambulance. A young African American man was seen writhing in pain with an apparent gunshot wound to the leg while fellow protesters — then police and paramedics — tried to help.
Henry Habu, a nearby resident, said he was there during the shooting.
Habu said there were three men and a woman in ski masks who were filming the demonstrations. One witness reported seeing three men in masks; another reported one. Still, when protesters asked them who they were and why they were filming, Habu said, they deflected the questions.
Several people involved in the demonstrations — including a Black Lives Matter organizer and the NAACP Minneapolis chapter president — have called the alleged gunmen white supremacists. Authorities, however, have not confirmed those claims.
Habu said the outsiders appeared to fit the description of white supremacists whom protesters had been told to watch out for — those wearing masks or camouflage clothing. He said that at one point, those who were wearing masks walked away, and some protesters followed them.
“They tried to fight,” he said. “There was a scuffle.”
Carrie Brown and several other older members in the community said they tried to defuse the situation.
“One of the white protesters who had been with us since the beginning said, ‘Be careful, those guys are white supremacists,’” Brown said, referring to the three men and one woman in balaclavas. “We asked them to remove their masks, asked who they were, invited them to come and protest with us peacefully once they did that.”
“One of our young men reached out and touched one of them and said, ‘Oh he has a vest on’ like a bulletproof vest,” she added.
One witness, who did not want be named, was among those who followed the outsiders up the street.
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SOURCE: The Washington Post, Alex Baumhardt, Lindsey Bever and Michael E. Miller