Minnesota activist Andrew Henderson recently shined a light on a cop who was urging readers of a local newspaper to run over protesters in the comments section of an article about an upcoming Black Lives Matter rally that took place on Martin Luther King Day.
Using the moniker JM Roth, the cop explained to readers that all they had to do was say they were in fear for their lives and the courts would rule in their favor.
But with a little internet sleuthing, Henderson was able to connect that moniker with the name Jeff Rothecker, a St. Paul police officer with a long history of disdain, hostility and aggression against protesters.
I first did a search on Facebook for anyone with the same last name in Minnesota and found his wife there. I then did a Google search for his Facebook pseudo name and found his Pipl profile which linked me to his various social media accounts.
Henderson, who had taken screenshots of the comments, then called the St. Paul Police Department and arranged a meeting with internal affairs.
As a result, Rothecker was suspended and forced to apologize. He has also disabled his social media accounts.
And now the story has gone viral with media outlets such as Good Morning America, CNN, New York Times and Washington Post, among others, reporting on it, revealing a dark side about police culture that has nothing but contempt for protesters.
Henderson said he has long had his eye on the trolling cop, saying he has had previous flame wars with JM Roth on the Facebook page, Minnesota Cop Block, where he is an administrator.
The group page currently has 3,296 members and seeks to hold police accountable by video recording police encounters.
Henderson was already familiar with the account and stated that Rothecker would often troll the group with comments such as, “you don’t have the balls to do what I do” and calling them “armchair quarterbacks” or “flipping idiots”.
He would take screenshots along the way in order to document his comments, while Rothecker wasn’t exactly shy about admitting his identity.
But it was Rothecker’s latest comments that led to Henderson reporting the screenshots to the St. Paul Police Department, leading to the meeting with internal affairs, which you can view in the video below.
He also video recorded the entire exchange with the police department from the moment he was called them to report on Rothecker’s comments, documenting the entire conversation with his webcam.
Last Sunday, he then received a call from the St. Paul Internal Affairs department requesting to meet with him that day, which seems unusual since it was on a Sunday.
In our conversation with Henderson, he told us, “this is the best I’ve seen any internal affairs department handle any case – ever. And I think they deserve some accolades for that.”
He recorded the entire interaction with the St. Paul Police Chief Thomas Smith and the internal affairs commander, which can be seen at the bottom of the article.
Henderson also told us he usually doesn’t submit complaints on officers he video records because he finds it to be a useless endeavor.
But when the internal affairs commander actually called him this past Sunday, he later learned there were at least four complaints in Rothecker’s file as well as a letter written by St. Paul Police Chief Smith stating that Rothecker was unfit to be a Seargent.
Local newspaper City Pages reports that this isn’t the first time Rothecker’s behavior raised concern with the public about how he deals with citizens protesting.
Henderson tells us that it’s not just Black Lives matter, he was also aggressive with protesters at the Republican National Convention protest. “If you stand against the status quo, Rothecker is against you,” Henderson said.
Other alarming facts are that Rothecker has served as a statewide vice president for the Fraternal Order of Police for the past several years, currently serving as the 2nd vice president. He is also an elder abuse investigator.
According to the Star Tribune, Rothecker is on paid leave while the internal affairs investigation is ongoing.
As would be expected, Rothecker has since apologized for his comments (which confirms it was indeed actually him),
“I am extremely sorry for posting what I did, I understand that the post was insensitive and wrong. My poor choice of words conveyed a message I did not intend and am not proud of. Shortly after submitting the post, I re-read it and deleted it. As a law enforcement officer, I would never intentionally encourage someone to commit a crime. I very much regret my actions.
I apologize to all the citizens of St. Paul, the department, my fellow law enforcement professionals and my family for the scornful attention my mistake has brought upon them.
I apologize for exposing all law enforcement officers to increased scrutiny, during this difficult time of ongoing conflict between officers and members of the community.
I apologize to the community members who participated peacefully in the protest.” ~ Sergeant Jeff Rothecker
We asked Henderson what he would like to convey the most about this incident.
He told us, “anyone can do what I did. I’m just a normal guy. I don’t want 15 minutes of fame or to be a leader. I want other people to do this. Nobody really wants to do this in Minnesota. But I film every police encounter I witness.”
This isn’t the first time he’s uncovered a newsworthy story either. In that past, he’s caught officers running what he called ‘seat belt traps’, where police would stand on a corner and then radio to a cop to pull over drivers not wearing their seat belts in order to generate revenue.
But when he went near the station and filmed cops, almost all not wearing their seat belts, he was told to leave because it was private property.
“I would have stood my ground, because I was on public property, and just went to jail. But it was a three-day weekend and I had things to do, so I ended up leaving even though I didn’t have to,” he said.
We asked Henderson what advice he had for people who haven’t recorded police before. He said, “record and record. The hardest part, sometimes, is remaining calm. But I think it’s important to remain calm and assert your right to be there and record.”