The Minneapolis police chief and mayor have announced that four Minneapolis, Minnesota police officers have been fired in the death of George Floyd, an African-American man who is seen on a viral video pleading that he can’t breathe as one officer presses his knee to Floyd’s neck.
The video mostly shows Officers Derek Chauvin and Tou Thao. A third officer is briefly visible next to Chauvin in the disturbing video, which went viral on social media. Photos from other vantagepoints show a fourth officer was present.
Officer Derek Chauvin has now been charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter in connection with George Floyd’s death. You can read more about that here.
Authorities have not released the officers’ names, but Chauvin and Thao were named by the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Chauvin is the officer seen in the video pressing his knee on Floyd’s neck as Floyd implores that he can’t breathe before going silent. In the video, Thao’s role seems to be keeping guard and holding angry bystanders at bay, keeping them away from Chauvin and Floyd. The other officers’ roles are not clear from the video, which you can watch later in this article.
According to CBS Minneapolis, in Minneapolis, “kneeling on a suspect’s neck is allowed under the department’s use-of-force policy for officers who have received training in how to compress a neck without applying direct pressure to the airway.” However, some police training experts told the station they believed the officer compressed Floyd’s neck for too long because he was under control and not fighting them.
Floyd’s sister, Vanita Williams-Dabney, wrote on Facebook, “My bro was killed by Minneapolis police on Memorial Day …R I.P. bro we will get Justice for u ..gone2soon ..loveU4life.”
Federal authorities are investigating, and there is a criminal probe. The Minneapolis mayor tweeted that “four responding MPD officers involved in the death of George Floyd have been terminated. This is the right call.” He didn’t name them. Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo called the four officers “former employees” in a news conference.
In the news conference, the chief and mayor pledged to uphold promises about the department’s values as national outrage erupted about Floyd’s death.
Floyd was originally from Houston, Texas. He was known by the nickname “Big Floyd,” his Facebook page says. The Star Tribune reported that the initial call came in for someone using a counterfeit bill at a store, Cup Foods, at 3759 Chicago Avenue. When police arrived, they believed Floyd matched the description and found him sitting on the hood of his car, according to the newspaper.
“As additional information has been made available, it has been determined that the Federal Bureau of Investigations will be a part of this investigation,” Minneapolis police wrote in a news release. Floyd’s name was released by community leaders.
Heavy reached out to Tom Kelly, the lawyer for Chauvin, and his office said Kelly is not commenting right now on the case and that reporters should direct their questions to the Minneapolis Police Department. It’s not clear whether Thao and the other two officers have attorneys. Lt. Bob Kroll, of the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis, told CBS Minneapolis: “Now is not the time rush to judgement and immediately condemn our officers. An in-depth investigation is underway. Our officers are fully cooperating. We must review all video. We must wait for the medical examiner’s report.”
Here’s what you need to know:
In the Disturbing Citizen Video, Floyd Pleads That He Can’t Breathe But the Officer Doesn’t Release His Knee From Floyd’s Neck Even After He Goes Silent
The 10-minute video was posted to Facebook by a bystander, and quickly went viral. It shows that bystanders were growing increasingly upset about what they were seeing and repeatedly expressed their concern for Floyd. However, the officers didn’t appear to respond to their complaints.
“Please, I can’t breathe. Please man. Please,” Floyd says in the video’s beginning, his voice anguished.
The officer, now identified as Chauvin, has his knee on the man’s neck against a squad car, as Floyd continues saying he can’t breathe. There is a second officer standing nearby at the scene and a third next to Chauvin, and bystanders grow increasingly distressed in the video at what they are watching.
“Why you got him down, man. Let him breathe at least, man,” says one bystander to the officers.
Floyd repeats again, several times, “I can’t breathe.” He added, “I can’t move. … My stomach hurts. My neck hurts. Everything hurts. Please, please.”
“His nose is bleeding, c’mon now,” says a passerby. “You’ve got your knee on his neck,” says another bystander.
“How long you’ll gotta hold him down?” says a woman. “You can put him in a car,” says a man.
“That’s bullsh*t bro. … you’re f*cking stopping his breathing,” says a bystander.
People challenged the officer to just put the man in a car. The bystanders call the officer a “bum” and claim he’s stopping Floyd’s breathing.
Partway through the video, Floyd stops talking, but the officer keeps his knee on Floyd’s neck, the video shows.
“He’s not responsive right now,” challenges a bystander.
“Check his pulse,” demands a man.
The second officer, named as Tou Thao, sometimes interacts with the passerby. “Check his pulse. The man ain’t move yet, bro,” demands a bystander.
“He’s not f*cking moving. Get off of his f*cking neck,” the man yells. “Are you serious? Are you serious?”
“He’s black. They don’t care,” says a woman.
Paramedics eventually show up with a gurney after Floyd has gone silent for some time.
“The fact you guys aren’t checking his pulse and doing compression if he needs help?” says an upset woman.
“You just really killed that man, bro,” says a man to Chauvin, who appears unemotional and impassive throughout the video.
Only three officers can be seen in the video, one briefly and barely. However, a photo on Twitter from a different angle appears to show four officers:
The initial headline on the police press release stated, “Man Dies After Medical Incident During Police Interaction.”
According to the Star Tribune, police spokesman John Elder said Floyd died at a nearby hospital a short time later. He “suffered a medical episode while struggling with officers,” Elder said a few hours after the incident occurred, adding that Floyd appeared to be under the influence of either alcohol or another drug, the newspaper reported. However, Elder now says the chokehold was not a department-authorized technique, according to the newspaper, which quoted him as saying, “In my years as an officer, that would not be what I would ever consider a chokehold.”
The Police Chief Called the Death ‘Tragic’ in Announcing the Officers’ Terminations
The police chief said in a May 26 news conference that “there are inherent dangers in the profession of policing, but the vast majority of the work we do does never require use of force.” He offered his “deepest condolences” to Floyd’s family members, saying he was up all night “reviewing the information that I have to make the decision that I am standing before you today with many of the community leaders behind me.”
He then referred to the four involved officers as “former employees,” saying “I’ve made that decision this afternoon.” He said the death is still an ongoing criminal matter being investigated by agencies including the FBI.
“What occurred last night is certainly very tragic, and very sad,” said the police chief.
The chief said that public trust “must be the cornerstone” of how the Minneapolis Police Department will change its culture.
“The vast majority of the men and women who proudly put on this uniform each and every day understand the important role and relationship we must have with all of our community members,” said the chief.
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey has been harshly critical, saying in a news conference, “For five minutes, we watched a white officer press his knee into a black man’s neck. Five minutes. When you hear someone calling for help, you’re supposed to help. This officer failed in the most basic, human sense. What happened on Chicago and 38th last night is awful. It was traumatic. It serves as a reminder of how far we have to go.”
At the May 26 news conference, the mayor said, “I will say simply that I support your decision 100%. It is the right decision for our city. The right decision for our community. The right decision for our Minneapolis Police Department. We’ve stated our values, and we need to live by them.”
A community leader said during the press conference that the death was a “lynching.”
“We are sick and tired of being sick and tired. Too many lives have been taken,” she said. “Yesterday what we saw was a black man who was lynched. They didn’t use rope. He used his knee. And that black man, Mr. Floyd, said I can not breathe. Minnesota prides itself on being progressive, and being the north, but this is the Jim Crow north and we demand justice.”
She said she was thankful to the chief and the mayor “for standing with us. We are standing together as a community. We are a collective, and we will not be divided. We are done dying.”
According to the police press release, “On Monday evening, shortly after 8:00 pm, officers from the Minneapolis Police Department responded to the 3700 block of Chicago Avenue South on a report of a forgery in progress. Officers were advised that the suspect was sitting on top of a blue car and appeared to be under the influence.”
At that point, “Two officers arrived and located the suspect, a male believed to be in his 40s, in his car. He was ordered to step from his car. After he got out, he physically resisted officers. Officers were able to get the suspect into handcuffs and noted he appeared to be suffering medical distress. Officers called for an ambulance. He was transported to Hennepin County Medical Center by ambulance where he died a short time later.”
The release added, “At no time were weapons of any type used by anyone involved in this incident. The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension has been called in to investigate this incident at the request of the Minneapolis Police Department. No officers were injured in the incident. Body worn cameras were on and activated during this incident.”
In a news conference after outrage erupted over the video and death, Minneapolis police Chief Medaria Arradondo said that he asked for the federal investigation because there was “additional information that I had received that quite frankly, from community sources, that just provided more context than I had preliminarily.”