Police ‘don’t keep us safe,’ he said — while accepting police award for saving shooting victim

When Alex Mingus stepped to a podium after receiving the St. Paul police chief’s Award for Valor for saving a man who’d been shot, he had a message to deliver.

“I just want folks to know that they don’t keep us safe,” he said of police. “We keep us safe.”

On Site Public Media captured video of Mingus’ speech last week, which has gone viral and received national media attention.

Mingus, a 42-year-old father and a staff member at a Minneapolis school, said Monday that he used his limited medical knowledge to help the man who had been shot in St. Paul’s North End neighborhood.

He was driving his wife to work on the morning of Oct. 8, 2021, when he saw the aftermath of the attack and pulled over to help. He used a towel and a shirt to slow the bleeding from a gunshot wound.

An officer later informed Mingus that a bullet severed an artery in the man’s arm and, if Mingus hadn’t helped, he likely would have died.

Mingus is a Black man and he told police gathered at last week’s award ceremony, “I’m very uncomfortable being here with you guys.”

But he said Monday that, despite his discomfort, he went to the event because he wanted to use the time to make a statement. He said he never expected so many people would hear his message and respond positively.

After Interim Police Chief Jeremy Ellison gave him the award, Mingus took off his sweatshirt. He was wearing a T-shirt underneath that said, “Smash White Supremacy.”

He had the shirt made a while ago and said in an interview Monday that he wore it that day “because the police are one of the strongest arms of white supremacy in our world. They started as slave catchers, and they haven’t changed much. All that the police do is protect rich white people’s property.”

When Mingus was with the shooting victim, he said, nine squad cars went by. He tried to flag them down, but they didn’t stop.

“That was a potential of 18 people that could have stopped to help preserve life, but 18 people chose to go to a potential threat,” he said of officers responding to the shooting suspect. “And I recognize the man had a pistol, and we didn’t know what he was doing.”

Mingus said he is a certified firearms instructor.

The police department said that officers ended up in a standoff with a suspect who was threatening to shoot himself and others.

“Your officers quickly got bystanders out of the line of fire,” then-Police Chief Todd Axtell wrote on Twitter at the time. “ … And, finally, after nearly two hours, they took the male into custody without using any force.”

Last week, after Mingus said during his speech that it’s community members who keep each other safe, he wrapped up by saying, “Riots work.”

Mingus said Monday that his comment has led some people to say that he’s advocating for riots, but he added, “I’m not asking anybody to take to the streets right now and riot, that seems stupid. I was just saying those things do work when you need them to work. I live in south Minneapolis, I live near the Third Precinct. I was there during the uprising (after George Floyd was killed).”

He invited On Site Public Media to attend the award ceremony, but he said he’s shocked by the attention the video has been receiving.

Toussaint Morrison created On Site Public Media, which is one of only a few Black-owned media outlets in Minnesota. Morrison said Monday that he and Mingus have been friends since they met in Minneapolis in the 1980s. RayLynn Prokasky was the director of photography for the video.

“I don’t think he really understood the gravity of what he was going to say or how he was going to say it,” Morrison said Monday of Mingus. “That’s really the lens of On Site — to be in places … that a lot of people need to see, hear and then make their own opinions for themselves.”

After Mingus spoke, he and Ellison thanked each other, they exchanged a fist bump and Mingus left.

In a statement Monday, the police department said they were honored to recognize Mingus’ “lifesaving work.”

“We are happy the victim survived and thankful that Mr. Mingus was there to make a difference for the victim,” the statement said. “In addition, we are happy that the suspect was quickly stopped, charged, and held accountable for his violent act. Both of these results are the best outcomes we could have hoped for following such a tragic incident, and Mr. Mingus played a crucial role in that. Recognizing his actions that day is important for our community and our ongoing mission of working with our community to provide trusted service with respect.”

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