New video captures confusion when guardsman shoots at car during 2020 unrest
Newly released video from the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension shows a member of the Minnesota National Guard opening fire on a civilian driver out past curfew in the waning days of the unrest following George Floyd’s murder.
The guardsman who shot at the car said he feared for his life and was following orders from an Anoka County sergeant.
Now body-worn camera footage and internal reports reviewed by 5 INVESTIGATES show apparent confusion among sheriff’s deputies after hearing the live rounds.
In its internal review of the shooting, the National Guard found the service member acted in accordance with the rules on use of force. The Hennepin County Attorney’s Office, which reviewed the file, declined to charge the service member. A spokesperson for the Guard told 5 INVESTIGATES he is no longer serving in the Minnesota National Guard.
The driver of the car, Joshua Cochran, was not shot but he was injured by the less-lethal rounds used by deputies. Cochran and the car’s owner, Fred Stachnick, settled a lawsuit last year with the Minnesota National Guard for $125,000.
“It sounds like the left hand didn’t know what the right hand was doing in the moment,” Stachnick told 5 INVESTIGATES.
‘You told me to shoot’
The BCA’s report found when Cochran was driving, he did not respond to commands to stop or turn around, and Anoka County Sgt. Josh Hatten told law enforcement to “hit it!”
Anoka County deputies fired less-lethal munitions at the car before the National Guard member fired live rounds from his M4 carbine rifle.
“You told me to shoot! He told me to shoot. He said, ‘Shoot!’” the unidentified guard member said.
“It was less lethal, dude,” an Anoka County deputy responded.
BCA investigators found Hatten was the one who gave the command to “hit it,” but he denied ordering anyone to shoot at the vehicle.
“Inserting military personnel into a civil disturbance that is rapidly evolving is complex, with further training for those thrust into that role during an emergency being merited,” the Anoka County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement. “We do not want law enforcement command language that is often unique to our responsibilities to confuse others tasked with maintaining order.”
Anoka County deputies, along with state troopers and officers from the Department of Natural Resources, were stationed at the Washington Avenue ramp at Interstate 35W on May 31, 2020, to prevent cars from driving onto the highway. Later, deputies told BCA investigators they told numerous drivers to turn around — and those who didn’t were hit by less-lethal rounds.
In his lawsuit, Cochran said he never heard the commands to stop or turn around before his window was shot out by less-lethal munitions.
Cochran was never arrested or charged in the incident.
He was later convicted in an unrelated drug case and is now serving prison time.
A 2021 after-action report by the National Guard, reviewed by 5 INVESTIGATES, showed a lack of coordination, understanding and planning during the response to the unrest and rioting.
The newly released video underscores the disconnect, according to Cochran and Stachnik’s attorney Nico Ratkowski.
“There was a total lack of command, and that shows in terms of how these law enforcement officers and National Guardsmen were responding in the absence of good instruction,” Ratkowski said.
The Minnesota National Guard declined our request for an interview. But in a statement, Army Lt. Col. Peter Rampaart said the “unprecedented activation of the entire Minnesota Guard provided additional information to improve our training and validation of the Standing Rules for the Use of Force.”
“I hope that there’s more transparency with what happens within the National Guard and when rounds are fired, especially in a civilian setting,” Stachnik said, adding, “This should have had a spotlight shined on it a lot sooner than three years after the fact.”