Video Shows Minnesota Corrections Officer Harassing Black Protesters: 'F**k You'

A woman standing with Sgt. Paul Gorder can be heard shouting a racial slur at the demonstrators at one point.

The Minnesota Department of Corrections is investigating one of its officers after he was recorded taunting and shouting profanities at a group, largely composed of Black people, peacefully protesting police brutality and racial injustice on Sunday.

Sgt. Paul Gorder, who has worked at Minnesota Correctional Facility – Stillwater for more than 30 years, has been placed on “investigative leave” while MN DOC’s Office of Professional Accountability reviews the matter, a spokeswoman for the department told HuffPost in an email Monday.

“The actions in this video in no way reflect the values of the MN DOC,” the spokeswoman wrote.

In the nearly 40-second video, recorded on a cellphone by one of the protesters, Gorder can be seen giving the middle finger to the small group of demonstrators, which included several Black people, in Stillwater, Minnesota, about 25 miles east of Minneapolis.

“Fuck you, fuckers!” shouted Gorder, who was wearing American flag shorts.

At one point, a blond woman standing with Gorder can be heard yelling, “All you fucking n****rs ― get out of here!”

Multiple witnesses identified the woman as Gorder’s wife, Kimberly Beer. Facebook accounts for Gorder and Beer feature photos of them together.

Neither Gorder nor Beer immediately responded to HuffPost’s requests for comment.

“It is a duty to fight for our freedom!” one protester can be heard shouting back at the couple.

At least two police officers can be seen corralling Gorder and Beer away from the group, prompting most of the protesters to walk away.

“We must love and support one another!” some of the protesters chant with raised fists in the air as they remove themselves from the confrontation.

Several witnesses told HuffPost that Gorder and Beer appeared to be intoxicated. The Stillwater Police Department did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment.

A spokesperson for Fantastic Sam’s, a hair salon in Maplewood where Beer worked, told HuffPost that she was no longer employed there as of Monday.

“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.”

Minnesota Commissioner of Corrections Paul Schnell on Monday called Gorder’s actions “deeply disturbing” and “contrary to the mission and values” of his department.

“At a time when we are focused on growing trust in law enforcement and the broader criminal justice system, the conduct and comments by the DOC sergeant and his wife to the group of mostly African American peaceful protestors are troubling,” Schnell said in a statement.

His statement 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.

I have asked the Office of Professional Accountability to expedite this investigation, while ensuring the sergeant is afforded all rights and protections guaranteed by law and his union’s collective bargaining agreement. To the people subjected to the comments by the staff member and his wife in the video, I offer my personal apology.

The confrontation unfolded amid growing tension in the state over policing practices and racial injustice. Five days earlier, a jury found former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin guilty of murder and manslaughter in George Floyd’s death.

Chauvin, who is white, knelt on Floyd’s neck for nearly 10 minutes during an arrest attempt as Floyd, a Black man, repeatedly stated that he couldn’t breathe. Chauvin remained on his neck even after Floyd stopped moving, speaking and breathing.

Chauvin is being held at the Minnesota Correctional Facility – Oak Park Heights, the state’s only maximum security prison, as he awaits sentencing. The prison is located less than 2 miles from Minnesota Correctional Facility – Stillwater.

“I seen my son running up there and I see him recording. I’ve always taught him: The most powerful weapon you could have is a phone.””

- Kimberly Handy-Jones, whose 16-year-old son recorded Paul Gorder's actions

As Chauvin’s high-profile trial headed into its final week earlier this month, a police officer in Brooklyn Center, a Minneapolis suburb, fatally shot Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old Black man, during a traffic stop. The officer, Kim Potter, said she meant to use her Taser but fired her gun instead by accident. She was charged with second-degree manslaughter on April 14.

The bystander who recorded the video on Sunday, 16-year-old Isaiah Jones, said the confrontation occurred while he and about 40 other people were participating in a “church service” outside Washington County Attorney Pete Orput’s home. As part of the demonstration, the group was calling on Orput to bring murder charges against Potter.

During the gathering, a few houses down from Orput, Beer started harassing the group and making “inappropriate gestures” at them, Jones said. At one point, Beer tried to get into one of the protester’s cars. That’s when things escalated, including Beer hurling racial slurs and Gorder threatening to “punch one of us,” he said.

“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 demonstration 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.”

“It started off really nice and then toward the end of it, we were closing out and I see the police going toward this couple,” she said. “And I seen my son running up there and I see him recording. I’ve always taught him: The most powerful weapon you could have is a phone.”

Handy-Jones ― the president and founder of the Cordale Q. Handy In Remembrance of Me Foundation, which provides headstones for families whose loved ones were killed by police ― said the incident shook her to the “core.”

“It just says we have more work to do,” she said. “I am preparing my 16-year-old to be willing and to be able to take the torch when I can no longer do it.”

“It really speaks to what I have been telling all my kids that, in America, Black people are born with such unfortunate circumstances that we have to fight from the time that we come out of the womb,” she added. “This is what it will be if we don’t start making change.”

In a Facebook post from May 2019, MN DOC described Gorder as “well known and highly respected among staff and incarcerated men at the facility.”

Nekima Levy Armstrong, a civil rights attorney and former president of the Minneapolis chapter of the NAACP, helped co-lead the church service on Sunday. She told HuffPost that she organized another demonstration held outside Orput’s house on Thursday.

Levy Armstrong said Gorder “hurled expletives” at the group on Thursday as well and that she was “shocked” by his behavior at the time. During that demonstration, Gorder walked into the crowd, causing some protesters to worry that he was about to harm someone, Levy Armstrong said. Instead, Gorder hugged one of the event’s speakers, Myon Burrell, a Black man who recently was released from prison after receiving a life sentence as a teenager, she said.

Gorder, as a corrections officer, knew Burrell while he was incarcerated, Levy Armstrong said. Still, she said, she was puzzled that Gorder acted hostile toward the group but then embraced Burrell.

“They apparently had a good relationship, but that doesn’t mean that he likes Black people in general,” Levy Armstrong said.

Several witnesses said MN DOC should fire Gorder.

“It was disturbing to me that he’s a correctional officer,” Handy-Jones said. “What are you doing when you’re on the job? You take you wherever you go. This is who you is on and off the job.”

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