Minnesota Department of Corrections fires guard who drunkenly confronted protesters

·2 min read

A Minnesota prison guard caught on camera drunkenly confronting a group of Black Lives Matter protesters with a string of profanities while off-duty outside his Stillwater home last month has been fired.

The decision comes roughly two weeks after Sgt. Paul Gorder, a 26-year veteran at the Department of Corrections, was placed on paid investigatory leave for conduct his employer described as "deeply disturbing."

On Wednesday, a department spokeswoman said the Office of Professional Accountability had completed its investigation and that Gorder "is no longer employed by the DOC." She declined to elaborate on whether he was fired or quit, noting that state law prevents the agency from discussing disciplinary data until a decision is final. However, a source with knowledge of the investigation confirmed that he'd been terminated from his post.

As a union member, Gorder is entitled to appeal the decision through arbitration.

In a statement, Corrections Commissioner Paul Schnell said that when concerns about the conduct of a staff member arise, he is " compelled to act in a manner that ensures public trust, while ensuring that the employee is afforded all the rights and protections guaranteed by law and their union's collective bargaining agreement."

The agency took action just hours after videos surfaced of Gorder insulting peaceful protesters gathered outside the home of Washington County Attorney Pete Orput, who lives down the street. Demonstrators repeatedly gathered in the neighborhood last month to press for murder charges against former Brooklyn Center police officer Kimberly Potter, who shot and killed 20-year-old Daunte Wright during a traffic stop April 11. Orput has defended his decision to charge Potter with second-degree manslaughter in the case.

Video of the encounter shows Gorder, dressed in a DOC T-shirt, yelling obscenities at protesters while his wife, Kimberly Beer, hurls a racial slur toward the mostly Black crowd. Stillwater police officers eventually intervened to help escort the couple back to their house.

She lost her job at Fantastic Sam's Cut and Color hair salon the next day.

Gorder and Beer appeared "heavily intoxicated," at the time, according to a police report obtained by the Star Tribune.

"I noticed that both of them were slurring their words, having trouble maintaining their balance and that they smelled heavily of an odor consistent with that of a consumed alcoholic beverage," the responding officer wrote in his April 25 report. Neither were charged with a crime.

In a similar altercation recorded earlier that week, Gorder is sitting in a lawn chair at the end of his driveway, lobbing obscenities at people in the street. He can be heard using homophobic and misogynistic slurs.

Liz Sawyer • 612-673-4648