Community outraged; officers fired
An otherwise peaceful Tuesday morning was interrupted by a video showing a Minneapolis police officer placing his knee with all of his weight on the neck of a man laying prone on the ground. The man complained that he could not breathe, while bystanders pleaded with the officer to relent. He did not. The 40-something man, George Floyd, died minutes later at Hennepin County Medical Center.
The incident took place on Memorial Day after 7 pm in front of Cup Foods, near the corner of 38th Street and Chicago Avenue in South Minneapolis.
“He had a big heart,” said Floyd’s nephew Morr’Quem Hobson. “I talked to him every other day.” Hobson said that he was awakened by the news on Tuesday morning.
“Please, please man, I can’t breathe,” Floyd is heard in the video saying to officers. He is also heard repeating “I can’t breathe, I cannot breathe.” At one point, one of the officers asks him, “What do you want?”
“I can’t breathe” he replies, complaining throughout and saying that his neck hurts. At one point he even says, “They gonna kill me.”
When one of the bystanders who had self-identified as a healthcare professional yelled, “B—h!” at one of the officers, the officer responded, “That’s not very professional.”
Others can be heard in the video pleading with officers, one man stating, “You’re stopping his breathing right there, Bro. Get him off the ground, Bro.”
“He’s not responsive right now. He’s not moving,” said another woman, who asked the officers to check the man’s pulse. “Did they just kill him?” asks one of the bystanders as Floyd stops moving.
“Our community is outraged and disgusted by the senseless murder of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis Police Department,” said Nekima Levy Armstrong. “For several minutes Mr. Floyd begged for his life, saying, ‘I can’t breathe,’ while MPD officers continued applying the weight of their bodies to his neck and possibly his chest. All four officers and the ones who failed to intervene need to be fired immediately and criminally charged.”
“The lack of humanity in this disturbing video is sickening,” tweeted Minnesota Governor Tim Walz. “We will get answers and seek justice.”
Initial press statements by police reported the death as a “medical incident.” According to the police, “Officers were advised that the suspect was sitting on top of a blue car and appeared to be under the influence. 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.”
However, the police statement omits the period of time (several minutes) recorded on video, in which one officer had his knee on Floyd’s neck, which was apparently the cause of his “medical distress.”
The mayor of Minneapolis, Jacob Frey, who voiced outrage about the incident, also thought the knee on Floyd’s neck caused his death.
“For five minutes, we watched a White officer press his knee into a Black man’s neck. Five minutes,” said Frey in a statement posted on his Facebook page last Monday night.
“Being Black in America should not be a death sentence,” Frey’s post continued. “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. He was a human being and his life mattered.”
The two officers involved have been put on paid administrative leave, which is standard procedure. As we go to press we have been informed that four Minneapolis police officers have been fired as a result of the killing of George Floyd.
Community members and activists have called for justice. A protest called “I Can’t Breathe” has been planned for 5 pm Tuesday, May 26 at 38th and Chicago Avenue in Minneapolis. Over 4,000 people had RSVP’d at press time.
Interview with Morr’Quem Hobson conducted by Mel Reeves.