Listen: 20170823_StateFairChief (Blakey)

MPR News host Tom Weber talks with Art Blakey, Minnesota State Fair police chief, as he prepares to retire. For 37 years, Blakey has overseen it all as chief of police on the fairgrounds.

Blakey shares one particular harrowing moment of his Ramsey County law enforcement career back in 1996.


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SPEAKER: The Minnesota State Fair gets underway tomorrow. The fair has its own police force. It manages nearly 2 million visitors who pour through the gates for the 12-day event. And for 37 years, Art Blakey has overseen it all as chief of police on the fairgrounds.

Well, this year, at the age of 82, he's stepping down. He talked with our Tom Weber earlier today about his long career in law enforcement. He also told them about the night back in 1996 at the former VFW in the Rondo neighborhood when three young men tried to rob the place.

ART BLAKEY: The young lad at that time-- I says, drop your gun. I'm a police officer. And he turned and fired and hit me three times in the side here. And I returned fire, and he ran out the back door and collapsed in the alley.

TOM WEBER: Because you hit him too.

ART BLAKEY: Yeah. And he served time. He served 12 years. Come time for parole, the parole department had called me and asked me, did I have any problem with him being paroled?

And while he was incarcerated, he had studied and went to college, got a college degree. I happened to know his family, knew his dad, knew his mom. And I didn't know him at the time.

TOM WEBER: Yeah. And, by the way, you were actually released pretty quickly, it turned out. It didn't hit anything--

ART BLAKEY: Didn't anything vital. And I was back to work, working at a desk, in a week.

TOM WEBER: Yeah. The other young man was hurt a little more seriously, but he did recover.

ART BLAKEY: Yeah, he did recover also.

TOM WEBER: His name is Danny Givens.


TOM WEBER: And he's a pastor now, and he's very involved in the Black Lives Matter movement. And he's a really well known person around St. Paul.

ART BLAKEY: During the Rondo parade, it'd go right past my house. I'm at Victoria and Concordia. And they'd go right by my house.

And Danny, I'm standing out there, watching the parade go by. And he runs up to me, and one of these deals-- and people go, how can you do this? How can you-- I had people ask me, how can you embrace someone that nearly took your life?

I says, I was placed on this Earth to do something, not to hate. If you're going to hate, you're going to go before they are, because you can't hate people.

SPEAKER: That's 82-year-old Art Blakey, who is retiring as chief of police of the Minnesota State Fair. And he's got one more year. You can hear his entire interview at And while you're there, you can check out a complete list of our state fair broadcasts starting at 9:00, with Kerri Miller interviewing Governor Dayton tomorrow.

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