Minnesota police did NOT accidentally arrest a black FBI agent... But the man was mistakenly detained

Screengrab of a Facebook post.
Screengrab of a Facebook post.

A video that supposedly shows police in Rochester, Minnesota arresting a black FBI agent by mistake has gone viral amidst the protest movement that has swept the United States since the police murder of George Floyd last month. It turns out this story is partially false. The man wasn’t FBI and the incident happened a while ago, but he was detained in a case of mistaken identity.

A nationwide protest movement for justice, equality and police reform has swept the United States since the murder of George Floyd, a black man who was killed by the police who arrested him in Minneapolis, Minnesota on May 25.

It’s against this backdrop that many people have been sharing a video showing Minnesota police arresting another black man, who seems to have been racially profiled. The footage shows the man wearing a red shirt telling a police officer and his colleague that they have the wrong man.

“You are assuming that I am someone that I am not,” the man keeps repeating.

The two officers are eventually joined by three colleagues and they handcuff the protesting man. It’s only after the officers take out his wallet and look at his ID that they release him, seeming to realise that they’ve made an error.

The viral posts of this video, which have been viewed several million times in recent days, add a tantalising detail to the scene – that the man in red is actually an FBI agent and that police only realised their error when they saw his badge. Some people have even said that his badge “saved him.” However, there is no mention of the FBI in the video itself.

To get to the bottom of this, our team ran a search to figure out when this video was first posted online. It turns out it was shared on Facebook on May 30, 2020 by a man who says that he is a friend of the man in red in the video. Our team reached out to him, but he hasn’t responded yet.

The initial post makes no mention of the FBI. It does say that the incident took place in Rochester, Minnesota. The friend also says in his post that he “waited a year” before posting the video, making it likely that the current context inspired him to share it.

"I'm not an FBI agent" 

Rochester police told Reuters news agency that the incident took place on June 1, 2019, and that “contrary to social media rumors, the individual was not a Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) agent.” The department added: “During the brief detention, identification was located showing he was not the individual the officers knew had a warrant. The individual was immediately released.“

On June 4, the man who appears in the video posted a statement on his Facebook page. He says he works as an EMT in the city of Rochester.

“I am Atter Mogndal the individual arrested by the police in the video that gone viral [...] I am not a FBI agent nor do I work for any police agency. I believe this video is a clear indication of racial profiling [...] The lack of respect and common sense is what leads to situations like the one that killed George Floyd [...] I would have acted differently if they had done so with a humble and respectful approach,” he wrote in his post, which included his condolences to the family of George Loyd. Check out the full statement below.