Minneapolis, MN – Family and community gathered on what would’ve been Calvin Horton Jr.’s 45th birthday to celebrate his life and renew their calls for accountability for his killer. Horton Jr. was unarmed when he was fatally shot in Minneapolis outside of Cadillac Pawn by shop owner John Rieple during the second night of the George Floyd uprising.
The July 21 celebration included speakers, music, a balloon release, a vigil with flowers, and a table with Horton’s pictures and a large cake. The event took place on Lake St. between Bloomington Ave. and 16th Ave. in front of what once was Cadillac Pawn. The shop is now under new ownership and has been renamed Pawn Jewelry. Unicorn Riot live streamed the event.
Horton’s killer, John Rieple, who resides in Wisconsin, spent two nights in jail before released without charges. Despite Minnesota’s ‘duty to retreat‘ law, which requires business owners to retreat instead of defending their property with force, Rieple remains free and not charged in Horton’s murder.
In December 2020, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman, announced his office would not press charges against Rieple, saying “there was insufficient evidence to overcome a self-defense argument [by Rieple] in court.” Protesters were blamed for the reason as to why “the firearm was not recovered” and “looters” were blamed for destroying the video.
A July 21, 2021, a press release from the Racial Justice Network asked the community to contact Freeman’s office, demand he reopen Horton’s case, and “gather the surveillance video and bring murder charges against John Rieple.”
“The MPD detectives and Hennepin County prosecutors did not retrieve John Rieple’s rifle at the scene or the store surveillance video, and did not subpoena Rieple’s cloud service provider for copies of the surveillance video. In addition, they did not subpoena the cloud service providers of the surveillance cameras in the area of Bloomington Avenue and Lake Street, which had at least five visible cameras.“– Racial Justice Network press release, July 21, 2021
A majority of Horton Jr.’s seven children and a grandchild were present for the Lake Street event, along with many other family members and friends. Horton’s mother, Mae Roberts, came from Little Rock, Arkansas, to Minneapolis to celebrate the life of her son.
Roberts thanked everyone who showed up for the support. She recalled a discussion with prosecuting attorneys in the fall of 2020 in which they were telling her they didn’t have enough evidence to charge Rieple. She remembered asking the attorneys what kind of a gun her son was shot with, and them telling her that they didn’t know because they “didn’t confiscate the weapon.” She asked the same about the videos, and they told her they didn’t have those either. It was then that she realized “this ain’t right, something’s going on in this picture.“
In spite of the challenges she’s facing, Roberts says she will continue fighting to get justice for her son.
Horton’s daughter Cadaezhah also spoke during the event. Although she’s “angry and sad” and just wants justice for her dad, Cadaezhah thanked those who came, saying she loved all of those who showed up. She said that the new owners of the pawn shop agreed to allow the family to put a mural up of Calvin Horton on the side of the building and said “that’s good, so be looking out for that.“
The event was emceed by Monique Cullars-Doty, aunt of Marcus Golden, who was killed by St. Paul police officers in 2015. Aside from Horton’s family, speakers included Michelle Gross from Communities United Against Police Brutality; Touissant Morrison, activist and founder of On Site Public Media; Mel Reeves, also an activist and journalist with Minnesota Spokesman Recorder; and artist and activist Brandyn Tulloch.
Tulloch said the case of Horton, a Black protester killed by Rieple, a white business owner, was a spark in the Black Lives Matter versus Blue Lives Matter debate. He questioned whether those who say they “back the blue” make that statement because they actually support the police or because they think they “can also terrorize Black folks and people who fight for Black lives?“
Tulloch said Horton’s killing with no charges being pressed against Rieple is white supremacy at work: “you cannot take life to protect your property but he did it anyway.” He said that racism continues through authorities valuing property over Black lives, and in the leniency towards white vigilantes who kill Black people.
“We had people, business owners, white folks that were just mad about what was going on saying they support the police coming into the city and trying to do the police’s job for them. Right? How can you back the blue and say you support the police, but then come into a city with your guns ready to protect property because you don’t think the police is doing a good enough job?
If you support the police, you should have kept your ass at home and let them do the job that you think that they’re out here doing. And it’s the same thing with Kyle Rittenhouse. Right? He supports the police, he ‘backs the blue’ but he’s gonna grab his AR — he’s gonna grab his long gun and go out to protect buildings because he thought the police weren’t doing a good enough job. So do you really back the blue? Or do you just think that you can also terrorize Black folks and people who fight for Black lives?
And another way to point out the hypocrisy is when you are killed by the police. All these back to blue folks, these racist white folks will say ‘well, you shouldn’t have broken the law. George Floyd shouldn’t have broken the law. Police wouldn’t have came they wouldn’t have killed him.’ They say if you comply, you won’t die – that type of thing. But then they show up to break the law. These people, like John Rieple, show up to break the law in Minnesota you cannot protect your property with your gun when you can retreat. You cannot take life to protect your property but he did it anyway. And when people fighting for police to be held accountable to say that this was a murder, when they are killed. They’ll try to justify it in any way that they can.
Kyle Rittenhouse got to go home after murdering two protesters, he didn’t even spend that first night in jail, he got to sleep in his own bed after walking by the police. After they knew that he had killed two people. He got to walk home and go to bed that night. John Rieple spent however many hours, 72 hours in jail, 48 hours in jail. There are people who are facing protest charges and spend more time in jail than John Rieple ever has. Right? So they say that if the police kill you, you shouldn’t have broken the law. But then if a white person kills you for protesting that police murder, there’s no way that they could have broken the law. That’s the narrative that they want to point out. That’s what they want to say.
So in short, when the police kill a Black person, not only will they say that it’s justified – if you protest that murder, you can be murdered by someone who claims to support the police but takes the matter into their own hands and your death and your murder will also be justified. And that’s the reality of being a Black body in this country, not only can they kill you, when you have to fight to say that they murdered somebody, you can then be murdered and then they’ll also say that wasn’t murder. Every time and that’s how it goes. And that’s how it continues to go … we simply cannot exist a country in which this continues to happen …
Not only should Calvin Horton still be here today, Calvin Horton should have never had to protest on the 27th. Because when they saw the murder of George Floyd, we should live somewhere where they know that that’s a murder. It shouldn’t take a city burning down, and people coming out, people being killed in the streets and just to say that you’re killed somebody else in the streets. And that’s pretty much all I have to say. We will continue to show up, y’all can kill us. They’re going to keep killing us. They’re going to keep killing Black people. They’re going to keep killing protesters. They’re going to make it easier for people to kill protesters because they know that we have the truth on our side. And we’re going to keep fighting until that truth is seen by every single person.“Brandyn Tulloch, activist and artist
A similar event to celebrate Calvin’s life occurred last year on his birthday after a press conference that was led by Horton family attorney Ben Crump. Civil rights attorney Nekima Levy Armstrong said Rieple “felt entitled” to kill Horton because he knew “he could get away with it” based on the past conduct of the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office, which showed through its actions that “Black lives don’t matter.”
One of Horton Jr.’s son’s spoke with us after last year’s press conference about how the authorities handled Horton’s body. First responding to the scene were the Minneapolis Police who attempted to revive Horton on the sidewalk amidst the chaos of the unrest, then picked him up by his arms and legs and brought him to the middle of Bloomington Avenue to do CPR, at times dragging his body. “I just don’t like the way they handled his body. They drug him, and they didn’t treat it like a regular crime scene,” said Horton’s son.
A memorial fund run by Calvin’s daughter Cadaezhah, with a goal of $15,000 to help the children and family of Calvin Horton Jr. is continuing to collect donations and is nearing $11,000.