Police find body in Minneapolis pawnshop which was burned during riots in May

Yesterday, police searched a Minneapolis pawnshop which had been burned during rioting on May 28. Inside they found the charred body of an unidentified person. At this point police aren’t saying how the body got there but it appears it may have been there for nearly two months.

Investigators from the Minneapolis Police Department, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the state fire marshal’s division were acting on a tip when they discovered the body Monday morning in the rubble of Max It Pawn, at 2726 E. Lake St., according to Police Department spokesman John Elder.

“The body appears to have suffered thermal injury and we do have somebody charged with setting fire to that place,” said Elder, adding that city homicide detectives had taken over the investigation. He said that the victim’s identity would be released by medical examiners after an autopsy is completed, along with the precise cause and manner of death.

The site is several blocks east of the shuttered Third Precinct police station, the epicenter of the protests that broke out after Floyd’s death May 25 under the knee of a since-fired city police officer.

Last month police arrested 25-year-old Montez Terrill Lee after receiving videos from an anonymous source. Lee has been charged with arson by federal prosecutors. The two images above come from the videos used to identify Lee. On the left you see someone pouring a flammable liquid on the ground. On the right you see Lee standing with his fist raised before the burning pawn shop. Here’s the description of the videos from the complaint:

The first video begins with people looting the Max It Pawn. Then a masked man, identified as LEE, is shown pouring liquid out from a metal container throughout the pawn store. The video then cuts to outside the pawn shop, which is now on fire. LEE is show, now not wearing a shirt, holding his fist up. The man taking the video exclaims “Oh, s**t- you really did it! ”

The second video begins with the man identified as LEE standing in front of the pawn shop as it is in flames The individual filming asks LEE “What you do, Tez?” LEE responds “F*** this place. We ‘re gonna bum this b**ch down.”

Lee could presumably be facing additional charges now, but authorities aren’t saying that yet.

If the timing of this death is confirmed to date back to May, it would be the 2nd death connected to rioting in Minneapolis. The other death also took place at a pawn shop. John Rieple, owner of Cadillac Pawn, shot and killed Calvin Horton, allegedly while Horton was trying to loot his store.

Finally, my friend Jeryl Bier points out that the NY Times published an article last month referring to the burning of the police precinct in Minneapolis as a “glorious poetic rage.” That headline came from an organizer who described the arson that way.

“The reason this got so big is because it has been happening,” Junauda Petrus-Nasah, an author and organizer from Minneapolis, where Mr. Floyd lived and was killed, told me. On the third day of protests, when a police station house was lit on fire, “it felt like a glorious poetic rage,” she said.

I guess that’s pretty much how Montez Lee was feeling at the time too. But now that we know someone could have died in the flames, I wonder if the organizer or the NY Times regrets poeticizing arson and rioting.