The city of Shakopee, Minnesota, is a relatively quiet suburban community of 40,000 people that lies about 17 miles southwest of Minneapolis. Last week, in broad daylight, the community’s tranquility was shattered when a 55-year-old woman was brutally murdered on a city street in broad daylight and, according to gruesome footage circulated on social media, beheaded.
The victim, America Thayer, was one of the kindest, sweetest people anyone has ever met. She was born to immigrants who were so delighted after moving to the United States that they named their daughter after their new homeland. Her murder is a terrible, sad tragedy that should never have happened.
The suspected killer, Ms. Thayer’s boyfriend, Alexis Saborit, had been previously identified as a potential threat to the safety of the community. Despite these concerns and questions about his mental stability, Mr. Saborit had been released on bail in a felony arson case. Twice.
On November 9, 2020, Shakopee police officers responded to a report of a man, later identified as Mr. Saborit, using a baseball bat to smash car windows. According to police reports, the officers located Mr. Saborit in his second-story apartment, where he was seen holding a gas can out the window. Police began negotiating with him as he screamed about hating the police, poured fuel from a gas can, and threatened to light the fuel on fire. A fire was started inside the apartment and black smoke began to pour out the window, and Mr. Saborit was then seen throwing items out of his window. He eventually jumped from the window, landing on a vehicle below where officers arrested him. Mr. Saborit resisted arrest. He was charged with first-degree arson and first-degree damage to property.
Following his arrest, Mr. Saborit was conditionally released on bail despite the fact that a mental competency evaluation had been ordered, and despite his defense attorney’s concerns about his mental health. What’s more, Mr. Saborit was conditionally released even though he had pleaded guilty to gross misdemeanor domestic assault for an attack on Ms. Thayer in 2017 and was still serving out a four-year term of probation.
At the end of March, Mr. Saborit’s original conditional release was revoked after a urinalysis was returned positive for alcohol, violating the conditions of his release. The next day, however, despite continuing concerns about the danger he presented to the community, Mr. Saborit was released on bail again.
On the day of the alleged murder, Mr. Saborit was scheduled to be in court on the arson charge. He failed to appear. He was later arrested and charged with second-degree murder in the death of America Thayer.
In this case, the criminal justice system failed, and a convicted criminal who had been identified as a potential danger to the community was repeatedly released, resulting in the terrible and horrific murder of America Thayer. Had the criminal justice system functioned properly—had the law been properly enforced and excessive leniency not been extended to Saborit—America Thayer would still be alive today. Thayer’s tragic murder is, unfortunately, an example of the horrible consequences of being soft on crime.
Recently released statistics on crime in Minnesota show just how extensive those consequences are. There were 185 murders in Minnesota in 2020, up 58 percent over the previous year and breaking the record of 183 set in 1995. Cases of arson rose 54 percent after years of declines, while vehicle thefts rose 20 percent. In Minneapolis alone, carjackings rose 301 percent from 2019 to 2020. As of May 2021, carjackings had risen another 222 percent over the level in 2020.
The cause of skyrocketing violent crime in Minnesota cities—and in cities across America—is no mystery. When police are demoralized and defunded, when criminals are not properly prosecuted, when too many relatively easy plea deals are entered, when suspects are released following arrest, and when the law is not enforced to its letter, the result is more violent crime.
Meanwhile, Minnesota’s top legal and law-enforcement official, Attorney General Keith Ellison, has done nothing to address the problem. He has poured enormous resources into prosecuting police officers, but he hasn’t felt the need to take any action at all to stem the rising tide of violent crime. Last summer, Mr. Ellison stood idly by as rioters rampaged through Minneapolis and St. Paul. Mr. Ellison should have taken the lead in identifying those responsible for fomenting the violence and ensured they were prosecuted. But he did not. He did nothing—abandoning his duty to protect the people of Minnesota.
Mr. Ellison, together with Democrat leaders across the country who are similarly soft on crime, have allowed a general climate of lawlessness to take hold that seriously threatens public safety.
Enough is enough. It is time to stand up for America Thayer and all the other victims of violent crime. It is time to stop the bloodshed. It is time to stand up for law and order.
That is precisely what I will do when elected Minnesota Attorney General. I will partner with law enforcement and prosecutors to make sure that violent criminals and those who foment unrest are identified, arrested, and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. I will not rest until law and order is restored and Minnesota families are safe.
• Doug Wardlow is a constitutional lawyer and former Minnesota state representative. He is running for Minnesota Attorney General.