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Downtown Minneapolis suicide sparks night of confusion, clashes, looting

Several businesses along Nicollet Mall were vandalized or looted, including Brit's Pub, which briefly burned before firefighters put it out.

Several businesses along Nicollet Mall were vandalized or looted, including Brit's Pub, which briefly burned before firefighters put it out.

A man Minneapolis police pursued as the suspect in a homicide shot himself on Nicollet Mall around 6 p.m. Thursday evening. 

Dozens of bystanders were on the street at the time the shot was fired. Immediately, false rumors spread via word of mouth and social media that he had been shot by the police who'd just pulled up on the man, guns drawn.

Minneapolis Police quickly disseminated video footage showing the man's death was a suicide, sharing it with news reporters covering the scene and activists, including Nekima Levy Armstrong, who also said she'd spoken with Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo and urged people to inform themselves and contain the spread of misinformation.

The police and the city also tweeted surveillance footage of the man's suicide outside US Bancorp Center.

Still, the crowd and cops soon clashed, with police often using mace.

Looters hit various downtown shops and restaurants along Nicollet Mall, including Target, Haskell’s liquor store, and Brit’s Pub, which briefly caught fire.

Wednesday's action occurred in the shadow of ongoing protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin, where police officer Rusten Sheskey shot Jacob Blake, an unarmed black man, four times in the back on Sunday evening. Blake lived, but on Tuesday night three protesters were shot, two fatally, by Kyle Rittenhouse, a 17-year-old Illinois resident and "police admirer" who'd come to Kenosha with a rifle.

In Minneapolis, an anti-police protest that started Monday night resulted in 16 arrests, the Star Tribune reports, including 11 for people accused of causing damage to the Hennepin Couny Jail.

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey enacted an emergency curfew starting at 10 p.m. Wednesday evening, the first since the days of unrest following the police killing of George Floyd.

Minneapolis cops and Minnesota State Patrol troopers closed downtown streets, firing flash grenades and chemical irritants to clear the streets. Rioters launched fireworks and landed at least one cop in the hospital with a trash can lid to the head. As a black SUV barreled down 2nd Avenue South, an occupant could be seen through the open passenger window, toting an assault rifle.

In Loring Park, about 100 people vandalized businesses at LaSalle Avenue and West Grant Street, smashing the windows of Vietnamese restaurant Lotus, Indian-owned Greenway Liquors, LGBT sex shop Rainbow Road, and Speedway.

“These fools around here went and broke into there. It was nothing but an excuse. It was unnecessary,” said Catherine Simmons-Jones, who watched the looting from her apartment across the street. She said her brother-in-law, a Downtown Improvement District ambassador, witnessed the suicide that set everything in motion. “The cops didn’t do anything to nobody. A man shot himself. He had just killed another man and he took a gun and held it to his head and shot himself.”

Diljit Khosa, Greenway Liquors owner, said his store had been looted five times earlier this summer, resulting in inventory loss and property damage costing $200,000. His security cameras caught teeming crowds grabbing bottles off the shelves, emptying the register, and hiding in the cooler as cops arrived and arrested people.

At the mouth of the Loring Greenway, workers at Asian-owned Sushi Train escorted their last diners out, comping their checks as crowds swarmed the block. Employee Jon Lopez said he stood at the window, making a heart sign, to deter violence. Vandals shattered the glass anyway. They also broke into Dahl’s Medical Supply next door, which serves people with disabilities.

“It was very scary. I mean, a lot of our employees are obviously just here doing their jobs. We care about the safety of everyone, and it’s unfortunate what’s happening in today’s society, but this is just a casualty of war I guess,” Lopez said. “It’s unfortunate what happened because we’re going to have to slow down again. It’s something we all need financially, to keep our own bills paid.”

Thursday had been Lopez’s fourth day back to work since COVID-19 disrupted the restaurant industry. It’s also his 27th birthday Friday, and his co-workers at Sushi Train had been planning to surprise him with a birthday cake. As he was sweeping the floor of glass, they brought it out and sang him “Happy Birthday.”