A police sergeant in St. Paul, Minnesota, has been suspended after he was accused of telling people to run over Black Lives Matter protesters in a Facebook post.
Investigators are determining whether Sergeant Jeff Rothecker made the comment on a St. Paul Pioneer-Press Facebook post linking to a story about a planned Martin Luther King Jr. protest.
Rothecker used the name “JM Roth,” local “cop watcher” Andrew Henderson says. Henderson filed a complaint with the police department, City Pages reports.
Henderson told City Pages that JM Roth has often commented on his group’s Facebook page, calling them idiots and saying they couldn’t handle being cops. He gave the police screenshots of other posts, including one showing that JM Roth told another Facebook user “Yup, you don’t see me denying do you?,” when confronted about his identity last year.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Post Instructed Drivers Not to ‘Slow Down for Any of These Idiots Who Try & Block the Street’
The comment was made Friday night by JM Roth not long after the Pioneer Press made the Facebook post. The comment has since been deleted.
The full post by “JM Roth” said:
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 shown [sic] 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.
“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,” Andrew Henderson told City Pages.
Local activist Michelle Gross told City Pages that JM Roth has posted on police accountability pages for several months, making two or three racist comments a day. She said after Jamar Clark was a fatally shot by Minneapolis Police Officers in November, JM Roth “went crazy” and suggested people killed by police deserved to die, Gross said.
“He’s supposed to be a leader of other police officers,” Gross told City Pages. “For him to be advocating running people over and how to get away with it, I think he needs to be disciplined.”
2. The City’s Mayor Says He Is ‘Outraged & Disgusted’ By the Post
St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman said in a statement he is “outraged and disgusted by the post.” He said he instructed the city’s police department to investigate.
“There is no room in the St. Paul Police Department for employees who threaten members of the public. If the allegation is true, we will take the strongest possible action allowed under law,” Coleman said.
Police Chief Thomas Smith was told about the allegation on Saturday.
“This was of grave concern because of the upcoming event and we want to make sure everybody’s safe,” Senior Commander Shari Gray told the Pioneer Press. “If we needed to change tactics or operational security on the event, we needed to do it. And then, two, make sure that if indeed this was one of our officers, that it’s addressed quickly.”
Rothecker could not be reached for comment. He is being represented by a Fraternal Order of Police attorney.
“There is an investigation under way. We will let the process play out,” the attorney, Chris Wachtler, told the Pioneer Press. “I can’t comment on an active investigation until it is complete.”
3. Rothecker Has Been With the Department Since 1993 & Is an Elder Abuse Investigator
Rothecker joined the St. Paul Police Department in 1993, according to his LinkedIn profile. He graduated from Minnesota State University-Mankato with a degree in law enforcement in 1992. In 2002 he completed a master’s degree in police administration/leadership at the University of St. Thomas.
He is also a combat veteran, serving in the U.S. Army from 1988 to 1996.
His mother was also a police officer, according to a 2007 article about his visit to the national police memorial in D.C.
Rothecker, who lives in Cottage Grove, was promoted to sergeant in 2000, and has worked as a patrol sergeant, training officer and as an investigator. He currently investigates elder abuse, working with state and county agencies.
He has also served on Cottage Grove’s Public Safety, Health and Wellness Commission, according to the South Washington County Bulletin article.
“I saw a lot of stuff moving from St. Paul to Cottage Grove,” he told the newspaper. “The same people I was looking for, I saw in Cottage Grove.”
4. He Is a Vice President of the Minnesota Fraternal Order of PoliceRothecker has served as a statewide vice president for the Minnesota Fraternal Order of Police for the past several years, according to the FOP’s website.
He was elected to the position of 3rd vice president in 2007 and is currently second vice president.
Rothecker previously held officer positions in his local FOP, Lodge #1, including eight years as its president.
5. He Was Involved in an Altercation With Protesters Outside the Republican National Convention in 2008
Rothecker was involved in a clash with protesters outside the Republican National Convention in 2008, according to a video of the incident, which you can watch above.
According to court documents, Rothecker saw a man, later identified as Daniel Bono, jabbing toward a bus tire with either a “knife or a large screwdriver.” Rothecker grabbed Bono by the shirt and told him he was under arrest:
As Sergeant Rothecker was backing up with Bono in his grasp, some of the hundreds of protestors in the crowd started chanting ‘let him go.’ Bono went limp and dropped to the ground, forcing Sergeant Rothecker to drag him The crowd drew closer, and someone bumped Sergeant Rothecker hard enough to knock him to the ground; the crowd rushed in, and Sergeant Rothecker sprayed them with mace. Two or three people then pulled Bono away from Sergeant Rothecker, and Bono merged with them into the crowd.
A jury later found Bono guilty of escape from custody and aiding and abbetting the obstruction of his arrest. The conviction was held up on appeal.