Minneapolis death renews focus on Sen. Amy Klobuchar's prosecutor past

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., endorses Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden at a March 2 campaign rally in Dallas. (AP Photo/Richard W. Rodriguez)

Dalton Walker

The former 2020 Democratic presidential candidate has been scrutinized for leaving decisions on officer-involved fatalities to grand juries

Dalton Walker

Indian Country Today

As Minneapolis faces unrest in the wake of George Floyd’s death, Minnesota’s largest newspaper published three photos on Friday’s front page with a headline: A State of Agony.

Two of the images were predictably and directly tied to the real-time “agony” found on city streets overnight. A third — a smaller file photo of U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn. — highlights concerns about the former prosecutor’s past in light of Floyd’s death. 

The newspaper isn’t the only news organization reporting this week on Klobuchar’s time as a Hennepin County prosecutor between 1999 and 2007. The New York Times, Washington Post, the Guardian, among others, are shedding light on the former 2020 Democratic presidential candidate and potential running mate for presidential candidate Joe Biden.

Floyd died Monday in Minneapolis police custody, and the arresting officers have since been fired. One, Derek Chauvin, was charged Friday in the 46-year-old man’s death. Chauvin was seen on video kneeling on the neck of a handcuffed Floyd on the ground. The video shows Floyd pleading for his life as bystanders yell for police to get off him.

The video sparked protests in the city and other places across the country. In Minneapolis, some buildings have been looted, while others have been damaged and set on fire, including a police precinct and a respected Native American nonprofit organization’s building, Migizi Communications.

The Migizi Communications building burns in the background Friday morning in south Minneapolis. (Photo courtesy Melissa Olson)
The Migizi Communications building burns in the background Friday morning in south Minneapolis. (Photo courtesy Melissa Olson)

The connection for Klobuchar falls to Chauvin. 

In 2006, Chauvin was one of six officers who fired on and killed Wayne Reyes. Officers said Reyes pulled a gun after stabbing two people.

“While the death happened during Klobuchar’s tenure at the helm of the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office, the case did not go to a grand jury until after she left the office and became a senator,” reads the Star Tribune report. “Klobuchar did not criminally charge other police involved in the more than two dozen officer-involved fatalities that occurred during her time as prosecutor. She left those decisions to a grand jury, a practice that was common at the time.”

On Friday, Klubacher on MSNBC attempted to squash some media reports that said she declined a case that involved Chauvin.

“Let me make this clear, we did not blow off these cases,” she said. “We brought them to a grand jury, presented the evidence for a potential criminal prosecution, and the grand jury would come back with a decision. That is how we handled the cases.”

In hindsight, Klubacher said, “it would have been much better if I took the responsibility and looked at the cases and made the decision myself” instead of the cases going to a grand jury.

It’s unclear how the new criticism will affect Klubacher or if she’ll remain a frontrunner to join Biden, who has vowed to choose a woman as a running mate.

On Twitter Wednesday, Klubacher called for a “thorough investigation” at the federal, state and local level into Floyd’s death to her million followers. On Friday, she tweeted that Chauvin’s arrest is the “first step towards justice.”

In August, Klobuchar participated in the Frank LaMere Presidential Forum in Sioux City, Iowa. She was introduced by supporter Melanie Benjamin, chief executive of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, one of seven Ojibwe tribes in Minnesota. Benjamin said Klobuchar is an “excellent advocate for our voice. 

Klobuchar told the crowd, if elected, “I can promise you, as your president, I will respect sovereignty, and I will strongly believe in government-to-government negotiations and consultation.”

After Klobuchar bowed out the presidential race this year, Benjamin said in a statement that Klobuchar “is a friend, a wonderful senator, and I fully support her decision and will continue to support her.”

Minnesota Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan, White Earth, endorsed Klobuchar in August. And Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community Chairman Charlie Vig endorsed Klobuchar in the same “Amy for America” statement.

“Amy is uniquely positioned to ensure that Indigenous folks in both rural and urban communities are heard, seen and valued,” Flanagan said. “Amy knows Minnesota, she knows tribal issues, and she knows how to win in the Midwest.”

A message for comment to Benjamin’s office and Flanagan’s office on Friday went unreturned.

ICT Phone Logo

Dalton Walker, Red Lake Anishinaabe, is a national correspondent at Indian Country Today. Follow him on Twitter - @daltonwalker

Support Indian Country Today by becoming a member. Click here.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


News

FEATURED
COMMUNITY