He tried to flee, the police said, and in a struggle that followed, the man shot one of the officers in the hand. Both the officer and the man were taken to a hospital; the man had what the police chief, William Blair Anderson, described as minor injuries.
Reports quickly spread on social media that the encounter had ended very differently, though — with the police shooting and killing a black teenager. Within hours, a crowd of about 100 people had gathered and was headed for the police station.
Chief Anderson said at a news conference on Monday that the police understood that the crowd, acting on “misinformation, bad information or just flat-out lies,” intended to take over the station. He said officers used tear gas to disperse the group, but that several buildings, including the station, were damaged. Four people were arrested on minor charges, he said.
As the protest flared, officials raced to set the story straight, sending out a news release and calling community leaders to say there had been no killing.
At the news conference on Monday, the mayor, Dave Kleis, said there had been a lot of “dangerous” misinformation on social media. He and Chief Anderson tried to turn the story into a positive one for the Police Department, arguing that the officers’ handling of the incident showed their restraint and professionalism.
“This is one of those situations that could have gone markedly different,” Chief Anderson said, suggesting that it was a case in which an officer could permissibly have used deadly force.
“You want to see what good policing looks like?” he said. “You want to see what community policing looks like? You want to see what community engagement looks like? Come to St. Cloud, and we’ll show you.”