Update 5/26 3:52 p.m. ET: Four officers involved in the incident were fired Tuesday, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey announced on Twitter. Only two officers, identified by civil rights attorney Ben Crump as Derek Chauvin and Tou Thao, were seen in the viral video. The other two officers, who were off-camera during the incident, have not yet been publicly named.
The FBI and Minnesota state authorities are investigating an incident captured in a viral video that appears to show a white Minneapolis cop kneeling on a black man’s neck as he cries that he can’t breathe and begs for his mother.
The man died “a short time later” at Hennepin County Medical Center over what Minneapolis police described in a news release as a “medical incident.” The officers involved in detaining the man Monday night have since been placed on paid leave, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune. They have not yet been publicly named.
"For five minutes, we watched as a white officer pressed his knee to the neck of a black man. For five minutes,” Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said at a news conference Tuesday morning. "When you hear someone calling for help, you are supposed to help. This officer failed in the most basic human sense.”
“To our black community, to the family: I’m so sorry,” Frey said.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the state’s Bureau of Criminal Apprehension have been called upon to investigate the incident and any related civil rights violations at the request of Minneapolis’ police department, which will also conduct its own internal investigation. Sen. Amy Klobuchar called it “another horrifying and gut-wrenching instance of an African American man dying.”
The Minneapolis Police Department said it all started when two officers were called to respond to the man over an alleged “forgery in process” around 8 p.m. Monday near a local grocery store called Cup Foods.
The man, believed to be in his 40s, was allegedly intoxicated and sitting on top of his car. Ben Crump, the civil rights attorney now representing the man’s family, identified him in a statement Tuesday as George Floyd.
Police said that by the time they arrived, Floyd was in his car. They asked him to get out, at which point he “physically resisted” them. Floyd didn’t use weapons “of any type,” nor did the officers, according to a police news release. But once he was in handcuffs, officers “noted he appeared to be suffering medical distress.”
Officers have not yet detailed whether Floyd had a pre-existing condition, or whether that “medical distress” was the result of one officer kneeling on his neck for what appeared to be several minutes. Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo said he also received “additional information” about the incident that prompted the broader, multi-agency investigation, although it’s not yet clear what that information included.
Minneapolis police said the officers’ body-worn cameras were activated during the incident, although that footage has not yet been released.
“There was additional information that I had received that quite frankly, from community sources, that just provided more context than I had preliminarily,” Arradondo said at a news conference.
The bystander video, which captures nearly nine minutes of the encounter, begins only with Floyd already on the ground by the police cruiser. It does not include what transpired before he was detained. It was posted to Facebook early Tuesday, where it’s been viewed more than 360,000 times.
“I can’t breathe,” Floyd said near the beginning of the video, as he sobbed. “What do you want?” an officer said. “I can’t breathe!” Floyd responded. At that point Floyd began crying out, “Mama,” pleading, “My stomach hurts, my neck hurts, everything hurts.” He asked for water. The officers didn’t audibly respond to his pleas.
“His nose is bleeding, like come on, now,” a bystander said off-camera. “He’s not even resisting arrest,” another bystander said to the second officer on the scene. “He’s human, bro.” The bystanders, who cannot be seen on camera, began arguing at length with the second officer to intervene as his partner held Floyd down with his knee. The second officer told the bystanders that Floydhad “started talking,” indicating he was OK, although at that point he had grown more quiet.
“What’s your badge number, bro, you think that’s cool right now?” one bystander pleaded. “You’re a bum, bro, you’re a bum for that.”
“Look at him, he’s not responsive right now, bro!” the bystander said.
“Don’t do drugs, guys,” the second officer said. “Don’t do drugs, bro — what is that?” the bystander shouted back.
Minutes later, Floyd was completely unresponsive.
Emergency medical responders arrived and transferred his limp body into an ambulance. Activists are planning a protest for Tuesday night.
Cover image: Credit: Facebook user Darnella Frazier