A Minnesota Department of Corrections officer has been placed on leave after a video captured him harassing peaceful protestors on Sunday, April 25, emerged online.
In the clip, Sgt. Paul Gorder, who has worked at the Minnesota Correctional Facility-Stillwater for more than 30 years, was spotted in a pair of American flag print shorts yelling at a crowd of nearly 40 protesters, many of whom were Black and brown. “F-ck you, f-ckers!” he shouted. Gorder’s wife, Kimberly Beer, was alongside him yelling at the protestors as well and took her disdain one step further by throwing in a racial slur, saying, “All you f-cking n-ggers, get out here!”
“It is a duty to fight for our freedom!” one protester shouted back.
Soon afterward, two police officers pulled Gorder and his wife away from the crowd. The group then left as well. Many of them chanted, “We must love and support one another,” as they walked away. The demonstration was taking place outside of Washington Country Attorney Pete Orput’s home — Gorder and Beer are his neighbors.
Isaiah Jones, 16, captured the ruckus on video, telling HuffPost that Beer started harassing the group and making “inappropriate gestures” at them. Beer reportedly tried to enter the vehicle of one of the demonstrators and even threatened to punch one of them.
“It was heartbreaking,” Jones said. “It was mind-blowing to see that even though we just seen what happened to George Floyd. Then we had the Daunte Wright situation. You would think that there would be a change, but that’s still what certain white people feel about us.”
Jones was at the protest with his mother, Kimberly Handy-Jones, whose older son, Cordale Handy, was fatally shot by St. Paul police in 2017. “We just wanted to do a church protest and lift up the people and lift the spirits,” Handy-Jones told HuffPost. “And it was peaceful, as always.”
Several witnesses told the media outlet that the couple appeared to be intoxicated at the time of the incident. Many even called for the firing of Gorder.
The Minnesota Department of Corrections issued a statement explaining that Gorder had been placed on “investigative leave” while the DOC’s Office of Professional Accountability conducted a review.
Meanwhile, Minnesota’s Commissioner of Corrections Paul Schnell called Gorder’s action “deeply disturbing.”
“At a time when we are focused on growing trust in law enforcement and the broader criminal justice system,” Schnell wrote in a statement. “the conduct and comments by the DOC sergeant and his wife to the group of mostly African American peaceful protestors are troubling.”
He continued, “Even while off-duty, we expect that employees conduct themselves in a manner that upholds the values of the agency. The Department of Corrections is actively focused on promoting racial equity and reducing racial disparities in the state’s correctional system. The conduct and comments by this sergeant make the work of growing trust that much more difficult.”
Schnell also revealed that he requested the investigation be expedited and offered his personal apology to “the people subjected to the comments by the staff member and his wife in the video.”
A spokesperson for Fantastic Sam’s, a hair salon in Maplewood where Beer worked, told the media outlet that the woman was no longer employed there following the release of the footage. “We do not condone that behavior at all,” the spokesperson said. “Our number one priority is the community, the guests that come in the door, and our staff. And we are taking action.”
This is the latest incident for the state as tensions continue to rise regarding social injustice and policing tactics. On April 11, 20-year-old Daunte Wright was fatally shot by police officer Kimberly Potter during a traffic stop and attempted arrest for an outstanding arrest warrant in the Twin Cities suburb of Brooklyn Center. Potter has been charged with second-degree manslaughter in the slaying, which came just days before former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin was convicted of murder and manslaughter for killing George Floyd after kneeling on his neck for 9 minutes and 29 seconds last May. Chauvin faces up to 40 years in prison at sentencing.