A police sergeant in St. Paul, Minnesota
is enjoying a paid vacation has been placed on leave after a concerned citizen brought some of his more unsavory actions to the attention of Internal Affairs — specifically, suggesting that people run down Black Lives Matter protesters with their cars because, he says, they will get away with it.
Andrew Henderson, a co-administrator of Minnesota Cop Block, first noticed Sgt. Jeffrey M. Rotheker posting under the name JM Roth on the cop watcher group’s Facebook page. In fact, he explained while making his report to Internal Affairs, Rotheker was a regular dissenter. But one remark on an article about Black Lives Matter protesters stopping traffic went too far, prompting Henderson to take action.
“Run them over. Keep traffic flowing and don’t slow down for any of these idiots who try and block the street,” Rotheker advised his fellow Facebookers. He explained that they should “continue to drive and if you hit someone make sure you call 911 to report the accident and meet the cops a block or two away.” Rotheker says that the stop farther away can be justified because “you feared for your safety since in the past people in this group has shown [sic] a propensity towards violence.”
“Since they are trying to block the street and/or cross where there is no crossing you should not be charged with anything,” he added, explaining that even if “these idiots” attempted to sue you in civil court, “remember that it will be jury trial and so most likely it will come out in your favor.”
Henderson provided evidence to Internal Affairs that “JM Roth” is actually Rotheker.
“You know, a police officer shouldn’t be advising people to run over other people for just standing in the road. That’s not reasonable to me,” Henderson tells Internal Affairs investigators in a recording he made of the encounter. “I don’t know if that’s reasonable to you.’ ”
“It wouldn’t be reasonable to, I would think any person, any decent person,” Sgt. John Wuorinen replies. Police Chief Thomas Smith says that the allegations are “of grave concern” given the then-upcoming Martin Luther King Day protest. In a statement the police department announced an investigation is underway and “swift, strong and decisive disciplinary action will be taken” if it is proven that Rotheker made the comments.
“The statement (posted) is offensive, disappointing, concerning and does not reflect in any way — or align with — the views, values and practices of the St. Paul Police Department,” the statement reads.
Unfortunately, Rotheker’s suggestion is uncomfortably close to reality. In 2014, a St. Paul man struck a 16-year-old protester in Minneapolis who was speaking out about Michael Brown’s murder, breaking the teen girl’s leg. He paid a $575 fine and was ordered to complete a traffic education course. No jail time was served. Jeffrey Patrick Rice claimed that he was attempting to “flee a mob” that “damaged his car.” After plowing through a crowd of people and injuring the girl, Rice attempted to flee the scene but was stopped by police about a mile away.
St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman issued a statement Monday indicating that he is “outraged and disgusted by the post and (I) have directed the SPPD to investigate.”
Watch the meeting with Internal Affairs below:
Featured image via screengrab