A St. Paul, Minn., police sergeant has been put on paid administrative leave during an investigation of posts he put on Facebook encouraging people to drive over Black Lives Matter activists.
Sgt. Jeffrey Rothecker, who goes by “JM Roth” on his Facebook page, wrote the post in response to an article about a Black Lives Matter rally planned for Martin Luther King Day in Minneapolis:
Run them over. Keep traffic flowing and don’t slow down for any of these idiots who try and block the street. Here is the deal, you continue to drive and if you hit someone make sure you call 911 to report the accident and meet the cops a block or two away and you can justify stopping further away because you feared for your safety since in the past people in this group has (sic) shown a propensity towards violence. Since they are trying to block the street and/or cross where there is no crossing you should not be charged with anything. Now, these idiots could try and sue you in civil court, but remember that it will be jury trial and so most likely it will come out in your favor.
Rothecker not only encourages violence against Black Lives Matter protesters but also shows confidence that those who follow his suggestion will get away with the crime due to the likelihood of a jury siding with them over the protesters.
While the post has since been deleted, Andrew Henderson, who reported the post to the St. Paul Police Department, took a video screenshot of it. Henderson is a member of cop-watching group Minnesota Cop Block and said that Rothecker frequently posts derogatory comments on the group’s page. But the post about the rally took Henderson by surprise.
“When I saw that coming from a police officer, a person who is sworn to serve and protect people, it really struck a chord with me,” he said.
But this is not the first time Rothecker — who has been with the St. Paul Police Department since 1993 and was promoted to sergeant in 2000 — posted racist comments from the JM Roth account.
Michelle Gross, an activist who runs a police accountability Facebook page called Communities United Against Police Brutality, said Rothecker frequently wrote hateful messages on her page, sometimes as often as two or three times a day. According to Gross, Rothecker said that people killed by police officers deserve to die following the fatal police shooting of Jamar Clark in Minneapolis.
“He’s supposed to be a leader of other police officers,” Gross said. “For him to be advocating running people over and how to get away with it, I think he needs to be disciplined.”
Gross has since blocked Rothecker from posting on her page.
The St. Paul Police Department said in a statement they are “actively investigating” the posts and have “no tolerance within the department for employees” who see violence as the answer against law-abiding protesters.
“The statement is offensive, disappointing, concerning and does not reflect in any way — or align with — the views, values and practices of the Saint Paul Police Department,” the statement said.
Mayor Chris Coleman said the post “outraged and disgusted” him. “There is no room in the St. Paul Police Department for employees who threaten members of the public,” he said. “If the allegation is true, we will take the strongest possible action allowed under law.”
Rothecker served as second vice president of the Minnesota Fraternal Order of Police but resigned Monday afternoon. He has not yet commented on the allegations against him. However, he may have a history with violence against protesters. In 2008, he grabbed a protester at a Republican National Convention, who was not doing anything wrong at the time, by his shirt collar and dragged him to the ground. He then maced the bystanders in the crowd, according to a photographer who was at the protest and got part of the incident on video.
The fact that a police officer would publicly post something so offensive on Facebook does not come as a surprise, despite numerous other officers who have come under fire for it.
About a week after the one-year anniversary of the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown, shot and killed in August 2014 by Officer Darren Wilson, a St. Louis officer posted a troubling status to his Facebook page. Officer Todd J. “TJ” Bakula boasted about taking a vacation with his wife with his “annual Michael Brown bonus,” referring to the money he made working overtime during the protests around the anniversary: “I decided to spend my annual Michael Brown bonus on a nice relaxing bicycle ride trip to Defiance. Eating dinner now and staying at a bed and breakfast tonight,” part of the post read.
Also last summer, Shannon Dildine, a former North Charleston police sergeant, was fired after the discovery of a photo of Dildine wearing confederate flag boxers on his Facebook page. The confederate flag was the topic of controversy following the murder of nine Black members of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston. Authorities later discovered numerous photos of Dylann Roof, the white supremacist behind the massacre, with the confederate flag. Roof later admitted he wanted to spark a race war.