A rumor of a fatal police shooting in Minnesota led to a heated protest.
In a sign of the rage over police killings that is boiling around the country, a nonlethal encounter early Monday morning between the police and a black teenager in St. Cloud, Minn., quickly stirred rumors of a fatal shooting and a heated protest.
The episode began shortly after midnight, according to the St. Cloud police, when two officers saw reports on social media about a person with a firearm outside a local business. The officers confronted the person, an 18-year-old black man.
He tried to flee, the police said, and in a struggle that followed, the young man shot one of the officers in the hand. Both the officer and the young man were taken to the hospital; the young man had what the police chief, William Blair Anderson, described as minor injuries.
Reports quickly spread on social media that the encounter had ended very differently, though — with the police shooting and killing a black teenager. Within hours, a crowd of about 100 people had gathered and was headed for the police station.
Chief Anderson said at a news conference on Monday that the police understood that the crowd, acting on “misinformation, bad information, or just flat-out lies,” intended to take over the station. He said officers used tear gas to disperse the group, but that several buildings, including the station, were damaged. Four people were arrested on minor charges, he said.
As the protest flared, officials raced to set the story straight, sending out a news release and calling community leaders to say there had been no killing.
At the news conference on Monday, the mayor, Dave Kleis, said there had been a lot of “dangerous” misinformation on social media. He and Chief Anderson tried to turn the story into a positive one for the Police Department, arguing that the officers’ handling of the incident showed their restraint and professionalism.