Sioux Falls police are currently seeking to prosecute protesters who may have been involved in unrest on the night of May 31 at the Empire Mall, amid a nationwide uprising in response to the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd just days earlier.
A crowd of protesters gathered at the mall following a larger public peaceful protest earlier in downtown Sioux Falls. Police were dispatched to the scene, where they confronted the protesters. The department tweeted that protesters were throwing rocks and bottles at the police, who unleashed tear gas on the crowd. There were numerous reports of gun shots as well.
Several businesses at the mall were left with broken windows, but no further extensive damage was reported.
Prosecution efforts in the works
Now police are working to implicate individuals whose images were caught on security cameras. For protesters who were potentially onsite or captured on camera, this could mean facing serious felony charges, from aggravated assault on a police officer to attempted murder.
The department has compiled the surveillance footage and photos of people who were present, and are combing through it to try and find connections between people they’ve already spoken with and people shown in the footage. They’ve also released the images to the public for help with identification. As many of the individuals seemed to be younger youth and from Sioux Falls, often the police would contact school resource officers or probation officers for help in identifying those on camera.
Another tactic the police are using to make these connections is calling people who are suspected of participating. In some cases, the people they call willingly talk to the police and volunteer basic description of their presence at the mall that night, such as what they were wearing. This, in turn, gives investigators leverage to connect that person with someone spotted in the footage who fits the description and file charges.
Because there was a 10 p.m. curfew in place that night, police can also prosecute anyone proven to have been onsite later than that time. Once the curfew order was in place, just being present could result in a class one misdemeanor charge for remaining in, what is now, an unlawful assembly.
Anyone police connect with the broken windows at the mall may be subject to additional charges of burglary and/or burglary with attempted theft. The department is leveraging every charge they can, so there are numerous angles in which you may be implicated.
Contact an attorney before speaking to police
First and foremost, it’s critical to evoke the Fifth Amendment and not talk with the police if you are contacted, because anything you say can be used against you. Even if you provide what you believe are harmless details to be agreeable, you can implicate yourself and find yourself facing a misdemeanor at best, a felony at worst. Always speak with an attorney before proceeding in communications with the police.