No one charged in shotgun killing

Calvin Horton’s mother holds a sign asking for justice.
MSR file photo

Shop owner claimed self-defense during Floyd uprising

It appears that despite outrage from community and family members, no one is going to be held accountable for the death of Calvin Horton Jr. who was killed on May 27, 2020 during the riots that occurred two days after the murder of George Floyd.

A birthday celebration and protest was held in July to keep alive Horton’s memory and to continue to press for justice in the case.

In December of last year the Hennepin County Attorney’s office announced that it would not be filing charges against John Rieple, a 60-year-old White man who was identified by a witness as the man who shot Horton as he and others entered the Cadillac Pawn and Jewelry store on Lake Street in South Minneapolis.

The shop owner was taken into custody on May 28 and released days later after claiming self-defense. Rieple sold the shop not long after the shooting and now lives in Galesville, Wisconsin.

Horton Jr. was born in Arkansas but grew up in Minneapolis with his father, Calvin Horton Sr., after his mother, Mae Roberts, allowed him to move in with his father at the age of 10. He attended Minneapolis North High.

According to his mother, Horton Jr. was a loving son, father, brother, and kind-hearted person to those who knew him. “In Horton’s spare time he enjoyed listening to rap and hip-hop, spending time with his family, and watching sports,” Roberts said. “Calvin was also a sports fan, and he enjoyed watching football and basketball games with his brother.”

According to the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office, a large group of people behaved maliciously and physically and verbally attacked officers, so they had to move Horton to a “nearby business while they tried to keep him alive.” 

However, a video recording from the owner of Taqueria Las Cuatro Milpas suggests that people were following the officers’ orders by staying back. One bystander is heard cursing the officers while another bystander continuously shouted, “My people, be good” as he also told the crowd of people, “They didn’t do that,” meaning the officers had not shot Horton.

He was transported to Hennepin Healthcare’s emergency room where he later died from a shotgun blast wound. However, it is speculated that Horton may have died on the scene as an officer used chest compressions in an effort to revive him.

Photo by Unicorn Riot Cadillac Pawn shop on Lake street where Calvin Horton Jr was killed.

Ben Crump, along with Jeff Storms, represented the Horton family for the case. After a six-month investigation, Rieple wasn’t charged with killing Horton Jr. because he claimed self-defense in court and Freeman’s office said they couldn’t charge him because of a lack of evidence.

Looters destroyed all the video and there was insufficient evidence to overcome a self-defense argument. The missing evidence included security cameras and other recordings that would’ve shown how Rieple killed Horton and if Rieple’s self-defense claim was warranted. 

“When the police arrested him, the first thing they should’ve done was confiscate the surveillance cameras and the weapon because that’s the obvious decision,” Roberts said. 

However, according to criminal defense lawyer Joe Tamburino, business owners aren’t allowed to use deadly force to protect their property, but they can use physical, non-lethal force to keep them out. A person can defend themselves if they’re physically being attacked, but the retaliation needs to be comparable to the attacker. For example, if two people use their fists to fight and someone pulls out a firearm against that unarmed person, the law in Minnesota would deem it unacceptable. 

Stand-your-ground laws exclude the duty to retreat, but Minnesota doesn’t have stand-your-ground laws, so a person must first attempt to escape a deadly situation before using deadly force to protect themselves. On the other hand, if someone broke into your home, you’re allowed to use force or deadly force in self-defense.

“I think this guy should’ve been charged because it was overkill for him to shoot my son multiple times with a shotgun when he wasn’t a threat to him,” said Roberts. “He also could’ve shot his gun in the air because that would’ve scared people off.” 

A common question posed by activists and community members is: “If Calvin Horton Jr. was White, would John Rieple have been charged?” 

In America, when dealing with crime, the historical norm has been that White people are given the benefit of the doubt until proven guilty, while Black people are guilty until proven innocent beyond a reasonable doubt. 

Roberts and her family remain hopeful that new information will surface to help bring closure and justice for their family and Calvin Horton Jr., who was the father of three daughters, four sons and two grandchildren. He also has four brothers and four sisters. 

Jarrett Ballard welcomes reader responses to jarrettballard1@gmail.com

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