Gov. Walz Statement on National Guard Deployment Challenged
St. Paul, MN (KROC-AM News) - The Republican leaders of two committees in the Minnesota Senate have released the written testimony of a top Minneapolis Police official that appears to contradict statements made by Governor Tim Walz concerning the state's response to the rioting that followed the death of George Floyd in police custody.
The documents issued by the Senate Transportation and Public Safety committees indicate Police Commander Scott Gerlicher personally drafted a detailed written initial request for assistance from the National Guard on the evening of May 27th. That initial request was for 600 National Guard soldiers to help restore order in a deteriorating situation that was forcing Minneapolis police to adopt a defensive posture and severely limit the department's ability to take action to stop the violence that followed the initially peaceful protests over Floyd's death. Commander Gerlicher, who testified about his previous experience in writing such requests in advance of the Super Bowl in Minneapolis and the Republican National Convention, told the lawmakers he delivered the documentation to the Minneapolis Police Chief, who then forwarded it directly to State Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington via email by shortly after 9 PM that Wednesday night.
Governor Walz has stated that he only received a nonspecific request for assistance in a phone call from Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey. Public Safety Commissioner Harrington also testified that he advised the head of the National Guard to prepare for deployment on the morning of May 28th based on his observations of the events. A news release from the Senate committee says he made no mention of the formal request that had been sent by the Minneapolis Police. The governor formally activated the National Guard that evening and Gerlicher indicated about 100 soldiers were deployed to Minneapolis Thursday night, but the full-scale deployment of the National Guard waited didn't occur until Saturday, May 31st as the violence continued Friday night.
The written testimony of the police commander also indicates a plan was put in place to secure the Third Precinct headquarters using a small SWAT team and non-lethal methods but that was overruled by Mayor Frey. The building was then abandoned and destroyed by the rioters.
Gerlicher's testimony also disputed some of the statements made by representatives of the Minneapolis police union during Senate hearings this past summer. He specifically addressed the testimony of an individual who told the committee she overheard Governor Walz on the phone giving an order to "give up" the precinct. Gerlicher contends it's not plausible the governor would make a direct call to the Police Command Post to a person below the rank of the mayor or police chief and issue such an order. He also noted both the mayor and the chief were in the command post at the time.
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