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Street signs appear at Twin Cities intersections warning people that police ‘startle easily’

An unofficial sign was mounted Sunday, July 23, 2017, at Snelling Avenue and University in St. Paul warning that Twin Cities police are “easily startled,” an apparent response to recent police shootings. Courtesy photo by Addy Free / St. Paul Pioneer Press

ST. PAUL -- A bright orange sign warning people that Twin Cities police startle easily appeared at the intersection of Snelling and University avenues on Sunday, July 23, according to a Facebook post.

The “Twin Cities Police Easily Startled” sign shows a stick figure in a police uniform with legs spread and firing a gun in each hand. The sign was gone when a Pioneer Press reporter drove by Sunday afternoon, but an identical sign turned up later in Minneapolis.

Addy Free said he snapped a photo of the St. Paul sign just before noon Sunday on his way home from work. He said he was one of many pedestrians and transit users who took notice.

“The message is too true,” Free said.

He said police are given a huge responsibility, but he feels they don’t get sufficient training “to root out the implicit racial and other biases we all learn in the U.S.”

Free’s posting on Facebook has been shared more than 19,000 times. His image and others also were shared many times on Twitter, Reddit and other social media platforms Sunday.

“I hope the artist’s work going viral has amplified the call for truly powerful civilian review boards across the metro and country,” Free said.

The signs come on the heels of two officer-involved shootings this month in Minneapolis, leading to the resignation of the Minneapolis Police Chief on Friday. 

On July 8, an uniformed officer responding to a burglary alarm shot and injured two dogs who were in a fenced yard in North Minneapolis.

A week later, on July 15, Justine Damond was shot dead by a Minneapolis police officer after she called 911 to report a possible sexual assault behind her home.

Damond’s relatives in Australia have hired lawyer Robert Bennett, who represented the family of St. Paul native Philando Castile.

Castile was fatally shot by the officer during a 2016 traffic stop in Falcon Heights seconds after he told the officer he was armed. Officer Jeronimo Yanez, who is Latino, was acquitted this year of manslaughter and two lesser charges.