4 Minneapolis cops fired after video shows one kneeling on neck of black man who later died

A video shared on social media appears to show a man, who family attorney Ben Crump has identified as George Floyd, on the ground, with an officer from Minneapolis Police Department placing his knee behind his neck forcing Floyd's face into the ground.

Posted: May 26, 2020 5:50 PM
Updated: May 26, 2020 5:50 PM

Four Minneapolis police officers have been fired for their involvement in the death of a black man who was held down with a knee as he protested that he couldn't breathe, officials said Tuesday.

The FBI is investigating the incident, which drew widespread condemnation of the officers after a video showing part of the encounter circulated on social media.

Officers responding to an alleged forgery in progress Monday evening were initially told that a person later described as the suspect was sitting on a car and appeared to be under the influence, police said.

A pair of officers located the man, who was at that point inside the car and who police said "physically resisted" the officers when ordered to get out. Officers handcuffed the man, who "appeared to be suffering medical distress," according to police. He died at a hospital a short time later, police said.

The four officers were "separated from employment," Officer Garrett Parten, a police spokesman, said Tuesday.

"I support your decisions, one hundred percent," Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, in a statement, said of Police Chief Medaria Arradondo's firing of the officers. "It is the right decision for our city. The right decision for our community, it is the right decision for the Minneapolis Police Department."

The video shows two officers by the man on the ground -- one of them with his knee over the back of the man's neck. The video did not capture what led up to the arrest or what police described as the man resisting arrest.

"Please, I can't breathe," the man said, screaming for several minutes before he became silent. Bystanders urged the officer to release the man from his hold.

Civil rights attorney Ben Crump, in a statement, identified the man as George Floyd and said he was representing his family.

"We all watched the horrific death of George Floyd on video as witnesses begged the police officer to take him into the police car and get off his neck," Crump said. "This abusive, excessive and inhumane use of force cost the life of a man who was being detained by the police for questioning about a non-violent charge."

News footage showed small clusters of protesters waving signs and chanting "No justice, no peace" outside a Minneapolis police precinct Tuesday afternoon. Some motorists honked in support.

Another protest was planned near a makeshift memorial to Floyd at the scene of the incident Tuesday night, CNN affiliate WCCO TV reported. It was being organized by local activists groups, including the Minneapolis NAACP.

Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar via Twitter called the incident "yet another horrifying and gutwrenching instance of an African American man dying."

Frey on Tuesday offered his condolences to the man's family, adding that "what we saw was horrible, completely and utterly messed up."

"For five minutes, we watched as a white officer pressed his knee to the neck of a black man," Frey told reporters.

"When you hear someone calling for help, you are supposed to help. This officer failed in the most basic human sense. What happened on Chicago and 38th this last night is simply awful. It was traumatic and it serves as a clear reminder of just how far we have to go."

"Being black in America," Frey said, should not be "a death sentence."

The Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis said in a statement the officers were cooperating in the investigation.

"Now is not the time rush to (judgment) and immediately condemn our officers," the statement said. "Officers' actions and training protocol will be carefully examined after the officers have provided their statements."

In a Facebook video posted Monday, bystanders urged the officer to get off the man. Two officers handled the man on the ground while another stood nearby with his eyes on the bystanders as traffic passed in the background.

"My stomach hurts," the man told the officer. "My neck hurts. Everything hurts."

At one point the man said, "Give me some water or something. Please. Please."

"His nose is bleeding," a woman said of the man.

"He's not even resisting arrest," one man said. "He's not responding right now, bro."

Frey said he understood the anger in the community but reminded potential protesters that "there is another danger out there right now which is Covid-19."

"We need to make sure that everyone that is protesting and that is voicing their opinion stays safe and their families are protected as well," he said. "So please, practice safe distancing, please use a mask."

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz tweeted Tuesday, "The lack of humanity in this disturbing video is sickening. We will get answers and seek justice."

St. Paul, Minnesota, Mayor Melvin Carter called the video of the incident "one of the most vile and heartbreaking images I've ever seen."

"The officer who stood guard is just as responsible as his partner; both must be held fully accountable," Carter tweeted. "This must stop now."

Paige Fernandez, policing policy adviser for the ACLU, said the incident recalled the 2014 New York death of Eric Garner, who repeated "I can't breathe" several times after a police officer held him in a chokehold. Garner died during the arrest, the incident also caught on video.

"Even in places like Minneapolis, where chokeholds are technically banned, Black people are targeted by the police for low-level offenses and are subjected to unreasonable, unnecessary violence," Fernandez said in a statement. "Make no mistake: George Floyd should be alive today. The officers responsible must be held accountable."

The Hennepin County Attorney's office said in a statement Tuesday that the Minnesota Department of Public Safety Bureau of Criminal Apprehension was investigating, along with the FBI. There was no immediate response from the FBI.

The county medical examiner will identify the victim once a preliminary autopsy has been done, authorities said.

Body worn cameras were activated during the incident, police said.

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