Staff and wire report
A protest in Denver on Thursday night over the death of a handcuffed black man during a confrontation with a white police officer in Minnesota turned destructive as shots were fired, vehicles were vandalized and a demonstrator was struck by a car.
There were no immediate reports of serious injuries.
“Tonight is a very sad night for our state,” Gov. Jared Polis said in a statement. “Coloradans are better than this.”
Gary Cutler, a spokesman for the Colorado State Patrol, said the shooting happened in a park across the street from the Capitol at about 5:30 p.m. Most of the protesters already had left the area and were marching downtown.
Cutler said the Capitol building was locked down, and everyone inside was safe.
State Rep. Leslie Herod, who was at the Capitol, tweeted, “We just got shot at.”
A video taken at the scene captured the sound of a volley of shots. People were slow to recognize what was happening, but then ducked and were told by officers on scene to run for cover.
Police said they don’t know if the protesters were being targeted.
“We do believe that the shots were towards the Capitol, but we do not at this point have any correlation to the protest or the protesters,” police spokesman Kurt Barnes told The Denver Post.
He said about six or seven shots were fired, and no one has been arrested.
“I want to plead to everyone, let’s demonstrate but let’s demonstrate peacefully,” Denver Mayor Michael Hancock said in a video posted on Twitter. “Leave the weapons at home.”
Murphy Robinson, Denver’s director of public safety, asked residents to be calm and peaceful, not destructive.
“I urge everyone in Denver, both residents and officers, to treat each other with the respect they deserve,” he said in a statement.
Several hundred protesters had gathered to call for justice following the death of George Floyd, who died in police custody in Minneapolis on Monday after an officer knelt on his neck for almost eight minutes. In footage recorded by a bystander, Floyd pleaded that he couldn’t breathe.
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Some among the Denver protesters carried signs reading “Black Lives Matter” and chanted, “Hey, hey. Ho, ho. Racist police got to go.”
They marched through downtown Denver, snarling traffic. Aerial footage showed protesters briefly blocking traffic from moving on Interstate 25 in both directions before swarming back through the downtown streets outside the Capitol.
Aerial footage showed several protesters smashing the windows out of at least two vehicles parked outside the Capitol, and others spray-painted graffiti on the Capitol steps and the building. One of the vehicles destroyed belongs to Senate President Leroy Garcia, a Pueblo Democrat. He wasn’t harmed.
The other vehicle that was damaged appeared to belong to the Colorado State Patrol.
Garcia tweeted support for the protesters earlier in the evening. He called Floyd’s death “senseless.”
A video tweeted from the scene also showed a demonstrator being struck by a vehicle near the Capitol. The vehicle then sped off as protesters gave chase.
Later, police used what appeared to be tear gas to disperse protesters near the intersection of East Colfax Avenue and Washington Street.
As the protest started, the Denver Police Department tweeted a message from Chief Paul Pazen sending condolences to Floyd’s family and saying the city’s officers do not use the tactics employed by the Minneapolis officers.
He called that type of force “inexcusable.”
About 9:30 p.m. the crowd of protesters began to dissipate.
Four Minneapolis police officers have been fired, and the mayor has called for the officer who knelt on Floyd’s neck to be criminally charged.
The death has led to violent protests in Minneapolis and demonstrations in other cities, including Los Angeles.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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