Chief: No riot in Leavenworth despite social media chatter

John Richmeier

Leavenworth police officers took steps to prepare for a riot Sunday night that had been announced on social media. But the riot never took place, the police chief said.

Leavenworth Police Chief Pat Kitchens said the information on social media was fake or plans for a riot simply did not pan out.

Around 4 p.m. Sunday, members of the Police Department became aware of information through social media of a riot that reportedly was planned for later that day.

“It was pretty active on social media,” Kitchens said.

According to information on social media, the riot was planned for 8 p.m. Sunday at the location of a former Walmart Store, 3450 S. Fourth St.

The location is now known as the First City Center.

Kitchens said police officials worked throughout the afternoon to verify the information and ultimately found what was believed to be the original social media post about the planned riot.

Kitchens said the Police Department took steps to prepare for the incident and officers went to the location where it was supposed to take place.

“There were no riots,” Kitchens said.

About 50 members of the public showed up to the scene, but Kitchens said they did not stage a demonstration. The police chief thinks they showed up out of curiosity to see what was going to happen.

“We spent several hours up there just as a matter of caution,” Kitchens said.

Demonstrations, including violent protests, have taken place around the United States since the May 25 death of George Floyd, who died while in police custody in Minneapolis. Four police officers have been fired following the incident and one, Derek Chauvin, is facing charges of third-degree murder and manslaughter.

Over the weekend, Kitchens commented about Floyd’s death and subsequent events in Minneapolis in a post on the Leavenworth Police Department’s Facebook page.

“I am angry about the death of George Floyd,” Kitchens wrote.

Kitchens stated that video of the incident that resulted in Floyd’s death was horrifying.

Kitchens wrote that Floyd “died pleading for help, unable to breath,” while a police officer’s knee was on his neck.

“I am angry about the look on (the officer’s) face of utter indifference to a human life,” Kitchens wrote. “I am angry with the other officers who stood by and didn’t help or intervene.”

Kitchens also expressed concern for Minneapolis. The Leavenworth police chief wrote he does not condone the rioting and looting that have taken place in Minneapolis “but in some small way, I am trying to understand it. Pleas for help have gone unheard. Demands for change have gone unheard. Peaceful protests have been dismissed. I am sure there are some element of the rioters that are just criminals but I suspect many of the people are just scared, angry, frustrated and don’t know what else to do.”

Kitchens added that Leavenworth police officers will use the recent events “as a call to recommit ourselves to our mission of Public Safety. We will use it as a call to recommit ourselves to protect and serve.”

Twitter: @LVTNewsJohnR