St. Paul police are disputing a viral report claiming that officer Jacob Pederson was seen on video wearing all black and smashing windows in order to ignite tensions in crowds of protesters.
Video circulated on Thursday that showed a man dressed in black, wearing a gas mask, and holding a black umbrella to apparently conceal his identity as he smashed the windows of an AutoZone store during demonstrations in the Minnesota city.
Protests have erupted across the Twin Cities following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on Monday. Video showed a police officer using a knee to pin Floyd's neck to the ground and leaving it there as the man pleaded that he could not breathe. The officer reportedly continued to hold his knee in place for minutes after Floyd became unresponsive. Floyd later died.
The protests across both Minneapolis and St. Paul have led to rising tensions between protesters and police. Some protesters have suggested that undercover officers are secretly infiltrating the crowds and inciting violence to justify a response from police, with many pointing to the video of the man at AutoZone as an example. Many online claim that the man was Pederson, offering what they claimed to be text messages from the man's former wife confirming it was him.
But as KARE reported, St. Paul police released a statement disputing these reports. A department spokesperson said that Pederson was among the officers working to keep the city safe during protests.
"We are aware of the social media post that erroneously identifies one of our officers as the person caught on video breaking windows in Minneapolis. We want to be perfectly clear about this: The person in the video is not our officer," said St. Paul Police spokesperson Steve Linders.
"Our officer has been working hard, serving his community, keeping people and property safe, and protecting the right to peacefully assemble. It's unfortunate that people would post and share this untrue information, adding more confusion to an already painful time in our community."The protester seen smashing windows at the store had not been identified.There have been other viral reports related to the Minneapolis protests that turned out to be false, including what many claimed was a picture of the officer seen with his knee on Floyd's neck wearing a "Make Whites Great Again" hat. As The Inquisitr reported, the person actually seen wearing the hat in the picture is a man known for his online trolling and support of Donald Trump.