(Human Events) — I am inside. Shielding myself, balancing on a chair away from the windows in my darkened office. The sooty sky is choked with smoke and blazing orange. Flames as far as I can see; the looted Target; the ransacked liquor store; police cars melting; the earth scorched.
Exploding M-80s, bricks and frozen water bottles are pelted at officers protecting my second home, the 3rd Precinct. Snipers fire rubber bullets at the crowd of thousands. The grotesque and deafening of humankind encroach the barrier. They swarm, surge and blast through, torching the building.
It’s blistering. The glass shatters. Shards fly, splicing clothes, skin, hair. I’m bleeding. Gushing from everywhere.
I shriek instructions into my bullhorn. Then, I … we … run. Down the stairs, out the back. Pounding heart, knees full of metal that can barely keep up. I’m shot in the back. It’s searing pain. I go down. Trampled. Left unidentifiable.
This is the nightly dream of Lieutenant Kimberly Lund, 60. She is one of the first female lieutenants of the Minneapolis Police Department and was a commander of the city’s 3rd Precinct. The nation watched live as, under siege, the station was fire-bombed during the George Floyd riots.
That is, when she can sleep — which is rare. I got to know her working on a project about the death of George Floyd. She opened up to me. This is her story. This is her point of view.
Northern Minnesota, near Lake Superior, towns are tiny and populated by those who service the iron mines. The winters feel like the tundra. Roadways are built around the giant open-cut pits.
Kim’s dad mined iron, with no hearing protection, and an unstable trade union that had him laid off or on strike for large chunks of his 38-year job. He was stoic in all things — except watching his kids’ games. He once caused a technical foul that gave an opposing team a free-throw because he was so mouthy to the ref.
He still lives in the house that she grew up in, alone without his wife of 56 years, who was always ready to make a homemade casserole with au gratin potatoes to bring to a sick neighbor. Though she died in 2013 he continues the tradition, albeit from a box.
Even 60 years ago, in a blue-collar world of convention and tradition with few ways out, no one ever told Kim Lund — captain of the cheerleading squad, editor of the yearbook, and speech and debate team champion — what she couldn’t do.
Wired self-sufficient and audacious, she was Miss Congeniality with bobble hair ties; an adrenaline junkie who bench pressed in the garage, raced motorcycles and snowmobiles, and was obsessed with Battleship, Risk, and chess. To this day, she can swiftly figure out crossword puzzles and whodunits and put Ikea parts together in a snap.
Kim didn’t go to sleepaway camp. There weren’t family vacations to tropical islands. Cars were driven until they decayed, and often dinner was creamed peas with tuna on toast. But her parents, her siblings and the town were cheery hard workers, unselfish protectors who never saw themselves as victims of class.
A high school aptitude test scored her highest on a career as a police officer. The guidance counselor gave her pamphlets. She landed at the local two-year community college that offered an associate degree in criminal justice, a prerequisite for the next step.
In 1982, there was one other female in Kim’s skills program, a two-year trade school curriculum for law enforcement. She had to remind the instructor she wasn’t there for marry-a-cop finishing school; and the lesbian innuendos were obnoxious.
What better joke could there be than to hire a 22-year-old “chick,” thought the outgoing police chief of a neighboring town. Lund, who had waited two years to be offered a job, braced to be degraded. But choices were few and far between. There was no police work for women. She was done stuffing cream into bakery donuts and didn’t want to pick up one more cheapskate’s tip on the bar.
Hazed with constantly changing hours, excessive overtime, and walk-the-beat-pull-on-door-knobs-to-make-sure-they’re-locked assignments, Lund emerged unbroken.
Lund showed the sexists. She could run down a crook and change a black and white’s flat tire. She loved a dirty joke, and routinely arrived to the shift first and left last. The men accepted her because she was legit.
By 1987, Lund wanted to bring her physical skillset — plus acuity, finesse, empathy — and be immersed in the ethos of a melting pot.
Rookie school in Minneapolis was 300 miles and 500,000 people away. Lund trained with senior teams and canvassed the metro landscape. She worked vice as a street robbery decoy. The acting gig got her groped and cut but propelled her into years as an officer in all five precincts of the city.
Each day a rendition of bellowing “on the floor” to a lethal gang in a hostile biker bar while serving a search warrant for a machine gun murder weapon. A box cutter to the throat, a second away from a sliced jugular, instinct and training kick in. She flips some beast, jiu-jitsu style, onto his back to save her own life.
In 1995, sergeant’s stripes arrived. And the ultimate challenge: relating to other moms who were talking about PTA and hockey team snacks instead of brutal beatings and iron scalds in the child abuse unit.
Awarded lieutenant in the city of Minneapolis in 2004, one of the first in its history, Lund’s ambition was realized in running street shifts and training, Homeland Security, Domestic Assault and Property Crimes.
When the I-35 bridge — an eight-lane, 140,000 a day vehicle commuter crossing — collapsed into the Mississippi River during rush hour, killing 13, severely injuring 145 and horrifying thousands, Lund became the victims’ link to the NTSB. She was the point of contact for families and survivors. She became their emotional and strategic clearinghouse.
To this day, Lund is still in touch with many. She’s close with a man who escaped a submerged rental car, swam to safety and flew back to Texas. She tracked him down and made sure he had the resources he needed to recover.
It is not lost on her that in the waning days, a senior officer during roll call raised his hand and said, “We want you to know we would do anything for you; we will always back you up. You don’t beat around the bush and when you get lemons, you make lemonade. All the time.”
Lt. Lund drove into the 3rd Precinct station house, 3000 Minnehaha Avenue, from her getaway lake house. It was a bright, humid morning, May 25, 2020. Memorial Day. She had no inkling that life as she knew it was about to end.
Lund had to tackle the unrelenting paperwork, weeding through the minutiae of arrests in custody as well as stolen lawn gnomes.
The 25,000 square foot building which staffed 150 and was the site of weekly midnight spaghetti dinners would be quiet on this welcome-to-summer holiday. For MPD COVID was not a centerpiece; it was business as usual.
With the warm weather would come “bike cops for kids.” Officers would tour the needy parts of the neighborhood giving away bikes and helmets. They’d erect lemonade and popsicle stands to meet folks and bond. Lund recalls a grief-stricken 15-year-old boy, gifted a ten-speed after his 11-year-old sister was killed by a stray bullet while doing her homework. Recently, at 33, that young man graduated from the police academy.
Her office, on the second floor in a loft-like space, had windows that overlooked Lake Street, its massive Target, boozy mainstay Minnehaha Wine and Spirits and the stacked patrol car lot.
The 3rd Precinct is geographically the largest in Minneapolis. Expensive homes along the river sit only a few miles away from public housing near the highway. It’s the most ethnically diverse with Caucasians, a big Native American contingent, a lot of Somali immigrants and Hispanics. It has the highest crime rate in the city.
The corridor along Chicago Avenue, from downtown to south of 38th street, is ground zero for the Bloods. Cartel fueled, drug and murder infested, the operation is organized: disperse heroin and fentanyl throughout the Midwest. It was easy to take over. No one is looking here because Minnesota is so nice.
Cup Foods is on the corner of Chicago and 38th. It’s a hodgepodge bodega caught in a time warp, lined with well-worn linoleum and lit by yellow-hued fluorescents. According to reliable sources, it also ran a not-so-secret business of selling stolen goods and was allegedly a marketplace for negotiating prostitution and substances.
From January 1 to Memorial Day 2020 there were over 250 calls from employees at Cup Foods to the Minneapolis Police Department. The supposed unholy alliance: the cops let them fence, especially hot cellphones, and they call in crimes — particularly the passing of counterfeit money.
At the office, cranking AC/DC while reviewing reports, ensuring cases were assigned or properly closed, Lund checked to see who was working overnight, on the “dog watch.” Lt. Lund always knew who was on and where they were. She had all their numbers in her phone and knew their spouses’ and kids’ first names.
At 6:00 pm on Monday, May 25, Lund went home, a nine-minute drive, to enjoy the last hours of the holiday.
About 9:00 pm, in the middle of a glass of merlot, the CAD alert system, used for notifying high-ranking police personnel via cellphone of a major law enforcement event, blew up. The message was poorly written and vague, so Lund had a difficult time deciphering exactly what had happened.
She dialed the station, assuming the sergeant on duty would be preparing for roll call. But he wasn’t there. He was outside Cup Foods. She asked what was happening and if he needed her. He stated, in no uncertain terms, that it was a “shit show” and to stay away.
By the tone of his voice, she knew something was really wrong. She wasn’t on duty, so she had to suppress the urge to intervene.
Watching and listening on her issued Toughbook laptop, Lund monitored the CAD system. It transcribed concurrent back and forth radio chatter between 9-1-1 dispatch, fielding public calls, and officers at 38th and Chicago. Police cars were tracked on GPS, and Lund could click on them, like a video game, and see who was there and when they arrived.
She read the intense hostility and the belligerence of the crowd. The chaos was growing. When she learned the perp, George Floyd, was black and the officer, Derek Chauvin, was white, she anticipated what was coming.
Over the years, Minnesota, but expressly Minneapolis, had moved politically left. With that came the drumbeat of racial strife. Every issue was viewed through the lens of skin color and equity. Above all, policing.
It was hard to take when that was never a conversation in the multi-ethnic department. Lund’s team had won awards for bravery by being first on the scene to an explosion at a school and rescuing 35 people before the fire department even arrived; they “adopted” struggling families at Christmas and surprised them with presents and groceries. Along with outstanding execution of their job description, they were altruistic. Community organizer groups like 3PAC held regular meetings inside 3000 Minnehaha where dialogue about issues, service and cultures were shared between the police and their constituents.
The noble craft was slowly degraded to the point where the attorney general’s directive was to show a decline in arrests for people of color no matter the infraction. The city council and the mayor carried this water. The evenhanded MPD was hamstrung. This tension created a time bomb primed for explosion. Lund, and her comrades, were always on edge.
Throughout that night, she learned that George Floyd had passed a counterfeit $20 bill while trying to buy cigarettes and sundries. The store clerk confiscated it and called the cops. It took 45 minutes for recruits Kueng and Lane to arrive.
They were both just six months out of the academy. It’s unclear why they were partnered that day. Covering on a holiday? A superior being nice? A junior cop is usually assigned to work with someone senior.
Floyd remained inside a car — where drugs and more counterfeit bills were later found — with his two friends, who were also black, in front of Cup Foods, the entire time.
Today, we have context and plenty of opinions about what happened next. But, in real time, law enforcement was called by the proprietors, to a spot known to be a hot bed of felony, in a neighborhood notorious for bloodshed.
Floyd, hyped up and drug addled, was argumentative and resistant. Cops are not into that. Agitation and unreliability always escalate things. Rookies aren’t experienced enough to handle non-routine calls, so backup was called. Officer Derek Chauvin and Officer Tou Thao arrived.
Lund knew Derek Chauvin well. She was one of his first supervisors. In 2004, he worked for her when she was a sergeant running homeland security at the water plants.
Starting in 2016, they interacted almost daily. Lund, as lieutenant covering dog watch (8:30 p.m.-6:30 a.m.), and Chauvin, who worked in the 3rd Precinct his entire career, on middle watch (4:30 p.m.-2:30 a.m.). He, who only ever wanted to work the street and never aspired to rise up the ranks, would be in and out of the precinct throughout the night.
Lt. Lund also saw him in action when she had watch (over the city) commander duties and arrived on the scene of a homicide or assault to which Chauvin had been the responding officer. And, as a trainer of younger officers, Chauvin, ex-army, led sessions on tactics and maneuvers. He was what they call “good shit.” A cop’s cop.
He had no problem taking orders from a woman. He was sharp and a thoughtful listener, though a little tense, and inelegant. He was also humane, always willing to cover holiday schedules for brothers and sisters who wanted to be with their kids as Derek, though married, never had any children.
He worked side by side, and among, without issue, cops of all races and creeds for 18 years. He had no disciplinary actions. Complaints, yes, about 22 over his career. An officer averages four or five grievances a year, so Chauvin was on the low side.
As Lund unraveled what happened that night, she learned that George Floyd had a long rap sheet, including serving five years in prison for aggravated assault, and an extensive history of drug abuse.
Body-cam footage shows Floyd rebellious and battling the officers for nearly 30 minutes. He refused to sit in the back of the police car and stiffened, physically resisting their coaxing. He says he can’t breathe many times, long before he is on the ground.
George Floyd was still alive when the paramedics arrived; otherwise they would not have transported him. His body would have remained for the coroner.
He died at 9:25 p.m. in the emergency room. Whatever conclusions one may draw from Daniella Fraiser’s cellphone video, the Hennepin County autopsy report stated George Floyd had “severe heart disease, high blood pressure and lethal amounts of fentanyl, methamphetamines, and opioids” in his system when he died. “No bruises or fractures, no life-threatening injuries [and] the anterior strap muscles of the neck discloses no areas of contusion or hemorrhage within the musculature. The thyroid cartilage and hyoid bone are intact. The tongue is free of bite marks, hemorrhage, or other injuries. The cervical spinal column is palpably stable and free of hemorrhage.” The final cause of death was confirmed as “cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement restraint.”
Lund believes George Floyd’s death was not second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter, the charges for which Derek Chauvin was found guilty. It was a perfect storm of “excited delirium” (characterized by agitation, aggression, acute distress, and sudden death), advanced cardiac disease (his heart grossly enlarged, his arteries blocked), and fatal levels of drugs.
Also, broken societal norms and human disconnection brought by the lockdown spurred the fury. The bystanders whipped up into a ravenous frenzy. This hysteria magnified everything. Then and in the aftermath.
And, lastly, Chauvin, controlling the scene, once Floyd was restrained and static, should have rolled him over on his side in the recovery position (open airway, knees up) and started CPR. He was wrong not to do so.
Lund went to sleep around midnight on Memorial Day. She wanted to be at the 3rd Precinct by 6:00 a.m. to help manage the narrative and wrap up the incident in a clean way, as she had for prior deaths in custody, which happened a few times a year.
But the next day would not be the end. It would only be the beginning of the end.
Tuesday morning, May 26, 2020, was quiet. Lund came into 3000 Minnehaha at daylight and went to work her cases. She had fifty or sixty to assign (route to units based on location of the event and type of offense); red line (get more intel); or give to detectives to pursue.
By mid-morning a small group had gathered outside, reacting to the story that Floyd was murdered. They started shouting “no justice, no peace, prosecute the police” and screamed obscenities. It was agitating and stressful. Lund turned on classic rock to drown them out but was constantly checking the news and Twitter.
Anxious and tired, she left at 3:30 p.m. There was a palpable electricity in the air. Jersey barriers were going up around the parking lot. The eight-minute cellphone video had gone viral. People across the nation were becoming aware of the story.
By 6:00 p.m., in an unprecedented move, all four officers were fired. No due process, no investigation. The court of public outrage rendered its verdict within 24 hours. At that moment Lt. Lund knew no one had her, nor her men’s and women’s, back.
When Lund returned at 5:00 a.m. on Wednesday, May 27, 2020, precinct windows had been broken. A brick had been thrown through hers. She taped them up with plastic.
A protest at 38th and Chicago, the site of Cup Foods, was mounting. Some were peaceful. Others were worked up. The gangs used this opportunity to shoot guns in the air and assault. A pregnant woman was killed.
MPD instructed officers not to respond. Some units still tried to get through to help quell the turbulence. When one squad was surrounded and had to be rescued, that was it. The “no go zone” was formed.
By nightfall the mob outside the 3rd Precinct station house had swelled. Cops were in full riot gear. More barriers were erected. Snipers on the roof used “less than lethal” rubber bullets to push back the crowd. The streets were flooded with looters. Officers were targeted, shot at with M80s and firecrackers. It was total madness.
An emergency hierarchy and chain had been designed and endlessly rehearsed for things like Super Bowl 52, Final Four, Trump’s visit and a potential terrorist attack. All city workers, especially the police force, as the primary agency for large scale event and riot control, had trained extensively for disaster. Systems and plans were prepared; subordinates ready to respond to management.
Yet, somehow, Lund’s urgent calls to leadership, in law enforcement, in city and state government, all went unanswered. No protocols were followed, and nothing was unified. It was a laissez-faire free-for-all.
Lund is convinced a combination of fear, ego, personality conflicts and low-quality, ill-equipped crony appointments were to blame for the epic failure.
Lt. Lund had to jump into action. Her “guys” were disorganized, shaken up and confused by the volatility and hate they were experiencing live and on social media. They were shocked by the abrupt firing of Chauvin, Thao, Kueng and Lane. She coordinated, ran interference and was a sounding board. She became their pillar.
Thursday, May 28, 2020, Lund was again in about 5:00 a.m. It was eerily calm and still, like the atmosphere before a tsunami.
The mayor, police chief, city council and other public figures ran with the accusation that Chauvin was a murderer. It was a natural extension of the systemic racism theme and dynamic that had been perpetuated over the years.
Now, rumor was spreading that the city was going to “give up” the 3rd Precinct station. Lund was stunned. To whom? For what? It was then, and is still now, unclear. In the blink of an eye Minneapolis went full metal jacket.
Lt. Lund packed up everything that wasn’t bolted down, including priceless historical artifacts of the police museum housed in the building. Her second husband, a retired homicide detective, whom she’s been with since 2000, came to get her around 1:30 p.m.
Third-world style, in their trusty Subaru, the license plate covered with duct tape, he wove through the hellscape. A grungy, threatening cluster was recording everything and jamming the entrance to a guarded lot. He made it inside. They packed the vehicle in a flurry. He tore out of there.
Lund took an unmarked car and went to SOC. The Special Operations Center houses in-service and pre-service training and SWAT. She contacted dog watch officers and directed them to report to EOTC for roll call and to await further instructions.
The Emergency Operations Training Facility is a compound cooperatively run by MPD and MFD. It’s staffed by a skeleton crew but can balloon at a moment’s notice. It’s the post where thousands of urban cameras are viewable, exposing every nook and cranny of the city.
Then, one of the deputy chiefs of police told Lund, who had been working for twelve hours, to go home.
There, she watched, on TV and online, as deadly projectiles were shelled at cops — her friends, her people — shielding the building. A small rogue team had stayed to “hold” the precinct station.
Heart pounding, hyperventilating, she squeezed her husband’s hand as a vicious throng advanced and took over. The place that would throw open its doors every year to a giant open house of bratwurst and cotton candy, pet the horses of the mounted patrol and watch the bomb squad robots in action, was ablaze.
For as much hell as Lund had seen in her long career, this was fresh. It felt like Armageddon. It looked like Benghazi.
She broke down, terrified that some may be dragged off and tortured as she saw her officers run for their lives. Lund recognized two who had just tried to prevent a triple murder-suicide by charging into gunfire and one who had survived kidney failure because another had been a match.
By deliverance, they staggered onto a waiting bus, the fanatics converging as they rolled away, an inferno in the rear-view mirror.
At sunrise on Friday, May 29, 2020, Lt. Lund snuck into the charred remains. Camera in hand, bowled over by the acrid stench, she was determined to document what nobody else would: floors soaked by sprinklers, mangled furniture, melted computers and walls caving in. Lund’s ire grew as she cautiously worked her way through the rooms.
It was apparent her office had been targeted. Accelerant had been poured everywhere. It was incinerated. And still smoldering.
The war was on.
When Lund worked undercover, one mission was infiltrating a militant anarchist group. Well-funded, they exist, underground, all over the country. They house and feed lost souls and train them to be ready to spring into action.
Within days of Floyd’s death, there was an influx of thousands into Minneapolis. All the precincts saw it: men and women, early 20s to mid 30s, in dark face masks and beat up old cars with out of state plates. The airport police reported flights arriving with “raunchy, dirty people” who “seemed out of place” disembarking.
Lund is positive about the connection: They amplified the unrest by not only fortifying but creating the riots in Minneapolis and across America.
In the beginning of her career, she fought to be seen. Now, in crisis, all ranks looked to Lt. Lund. The 3rd Precinct based out of the convention center. For the next two weeks Lund worked 20 hours a day. She self-deployed to patrol. Coming full circle, she was back on the streets, now physically fending off lawless attackers on burning blocks so the engine companies could do their job. She answered 9-1-1 dispatch with the massive uptick in shootings, robberies and domestic violence.
Roving, possessed thugs shot at officers, attempted to separate teams with trickery and prime an ambush. So, at the end of each day Lund sent a text and a photo to her family and close friends letting them know she was alive. She kept a letter inside her gas mask telling everyone how much she loved them.
Shortly after May 25, the stalking started. Lund thinks because her title was “lieutenant in charge of investigations” that people believed she would be heading a probe.
Thousands of bot calls on her work phone, cellphone and landline from around the world demanded the arrest and prosecution of Chauvin, Thao, Kueng and Lane.
Lund received death threats via text and emails. “Racist murderer, you should be killed!” “We know where you live and can find you at any time.” The messages included photos of her house, cars, kids and husband, who armed himself to guard their home.
She sent her son, who was finishing his last year of college at her home (due to COVID) to his (Lund’s first husband) dad’s house and instructed other family not to come over.
Her credit was breached. She had to close bank accounts because of identity theft. She was subscribed to hundreds of online sites and petitions further inundating her inbox at all hours of the day and night.
Sleep became nonexistent.
Finally, the national guard, state police and the highway patrol were called in. They bolstered patrol, backed up MFD in Humvees and responded to calls.
The city was a nightmare well into June. By early July, the ferocity had waned enough so Lund could go to her lake house for the 4th. But the strife continued the rest of the summer.
Thankfully, in the thick of it, the officers, sergeants and lieutenants of the 3rd Precinct talked to each other. Acknowledging the terror and trauma, some admitted it was the first time in their career they discussed feelings. They were their own therapists. Lund believes it’s why there haven’t been any suicides.
38th and Chicago turned into a perilous shrine; an anything-goes mélange of devastation, danger and baptisms. A pop-up mecca for self-righteous pilgrims. It remained that way for well over a year.
During all those weeks of battle, the upper echelon law enforcement command staff never did “check-ins.” Animus inspired city council motions to defund the police; viral photos of the chief of police and mayor kneeling in front of Cup Foods and Floyd’s casket triggered a mass law enforcement exodus.
By the fall of 2020, nearly 40 percent of the department was gone. Quit, moved, or retired.
During that August, battling exhaustion, physical and mental anguish, reflecting on her lifelong commitment to a job that was her calling, some things became clear for Lt. Lund: No one wants to understand police psyche; no one sees us as human beings, valiant but fallible. She knew she could no longer look young recruits in the eye and promise she could protect them.
And she wouldn’t survive the war on cops if she stayed a cop.
For Minneapolis, everybody lost. 1500 businesses were destroyed. Most of them haven’t returned. There was over $350 million in property damage, an economic and graphic wound that will haunt for decades.
Residents moved away, many to northern Minnesota. Downtown is a ghost town. The police force is still severely depleted so murders, robbery and carjackings are among the highest in the nation. 38th and Chicago continues to be an autonomous zone. Outside Cup Foods the temple of George Floyd stands. The sacred ground is covered with graffiti, iconic fists, flowers and slogans.
Unsolicited, pulling from her daily combat journal, Lt. Lund submitted an extensive report on the events. The “after action review of the civil unrest” was presented to the MPD superiors as she wrapped up her tenure. She never received a response.
Kim and her husband moved to Florida. He’s now a part-time flight attendant so they get free tickets to Minneapolis to see their kids and grandchild.
She’s focused on getting healthy, closing the open cut. Her days are filled with gardening, going to Twins spring training games, playing pickle ball, and learning how to sleep.
On December 25, 2020, a week before Lt. Lund officially retired, she got one last malicious text. “We haven’t forgotten you, Merry Christmas.” She shut that phone off, turned it in with her badge and never looked back.
This article was originally published at Human Events and is reprinted here with permission.
Kate Axelrod is a writer/producer who has currently been working in the sweet spot where politics/journalism/entertainment intersect; most recently as the producer of the Daily Wire doc The Greatest Lie Ever Sold. Her background is in physical production, line producing commercials and films and she’s written for television, on series and developing shows.