Swift Firings for MN Officers 05/27 06:27
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- To the general public, the video of a white police
officer pressing his knee into the neck of a shirtless black man prone on the
street, crying out for help until he finally stopped moving, was horrifying.
Four officers were fired a day after George Floyd's death, a stunning and
swift move by the Minneapolis chief with the mayor's full backing. But despite
their dismissal, whether the incident will be considered criminal, or even
excessive force, is a more complicated question that will likely take months to
The officers were dismissed soon after a bystander's video taken outside a
south Minneapolis grocery store Monday night showed an officer kneeling on the
handcuffed man's neck, even after he pleaded that he could not breathe and
Mayor Jacob Frey announced the firings on Twitter, saying: "This is the
The FBI and state law enforcement were investigating Floyd's death, which
immediately drew comparisons to the case of Eric Garner, an unarmed black man
who died in 2014 in New York after he was placed in a chokehold by police and
pleaded for his life, saying he could not breathe.
But in the Garner case, local prosecutors, the NYPD's internal affairs unit,
and the Justice Department all finished investigations into the case before the
officer was ultimately fired. Garner's family and activists spent years begging
for the officer to be removed.
The officers in the Minneapolis incident haven't even been publicly
identified, though one defense attorney has confirmed he is representing Derek
Chauvin, the officer seen with his knee on Floyd's neck. The attorney, Tom
Kelly, declined to comment further.
The police union asked the public to wait for the investigation to take its
course and not to "rush to judgment and immediately condemn our officers."
Messages left with the union after the firings were not returned.
Police Chief Medaria Arradondo said the department would conduct a full
internal investigation, and prosecutors will decide whether to file criminal
charges against the officers involved. The Hennepin County Attorney's Office
said it was "shocked and saddened" by the video and pledged to handle the case
fairly. Part of that investigation will likely focus on the intent of the
officers, whether they meant to harm Floyd or whether it was a death that
happened in the course of police work. The FBI was investigating whether the
officers willfully deprived Floyd of his civil rights.
News accounts show Chauvin was one of six officers who fired their weapons
in the 2006 death of Wayne Reyes, whom police said pointed a sawed-off shotgun
at officers after stabbing two people. Chauvin also shot and wounded a man in
2008 in a struggle after Chauvin and his partner responded to a reported
domestic assault. Police did not immediately respond to a request for Chauvin's
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. It is
considered a "non-deadly force option," according to the department's policy
A chokehold is considered a deadly force option and involves someone
obstructing the airway. According to the department's use-of-force policy,
officers are to use only an amount of force necessary that would be objectively
But two use-of-force experts told The Associated Press that the officer
clearly restrained the man too long. They noted the man was under control and
no longer fighting. Andrew Scott, a former Boca Raton, Florida, police chief
who now testifies as an expert witness in use-of-force cases, called Floyd's
death "a combination of not being trained properly or disregarding their
"He couldn't move. He was telling them he couldn't breathe, and they ignored
him," Scott said. "I can't even describe it. It was difficult to watch."
In a post on his Facebook page, the mayor, who is white, apologized Tuesday
to the black community for the officer's treatment of Floyd, 46, who worked
security at a restaurant.
"Being Black in America should not be a death sentence. 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," Frey posted.
Police said the man matched the description of a suspect in a forgery case
at a grocery store, and that he resisted arrest.
The video starts with the shirtless man on the ground, and does not show
what happened in the moments prior. The unidentified officer is kneeling on his
neck, ignoring his pleas. "Please, please, please, I can't breathe. Please,
man," said Floyd, who has his face against the pavement.
Even in the coronavirus pandemic that has killed nearly 100,000 people in
the U.S. and prompted police departments around the country to change how
they're doing work, the officers in the video aren't wearing masks. In some
cities, low-level arrests such as attempted forgery are skipped right now.
Floyd also moans. One of the officers tells him to "relax." Floyd calls for
his mother and says: "My stomach hurts, my neck hurts, everything hurts ... I
can't breathe." As bystanders shout their concern, one officer says, "He's
talking, so he's breathing."
But Floyd slowly becomes motionless under the officer's restraint. The
officer does not remove his knee until the man is loaded onto a gurney by
Several witnesses had gathered on a nearby sidewalk, some recording the
scene on their phones. The bystanders become increasingly agitated. One man
yells repeatedly. "He's not responsive right now!" Two witnesses, including one
woman who said she was a Minneapolis firefighter, yell at the officers to check
the man's pulse. "Check his pulse right now and tell me what it is!" she said.
At one point, an officer says: "Don't do drugs, guys." And one man yells,
"Don't do drugs, bro? What is that? What do you think this is?"
The Hennepin County medical examiner identified Floyd but said the cause of
death was pending.
Floyd had worked security for five years at a restaurant called Conga Latin
Bistro and rented a home from the restaurant owner, Jovanni Thunstrom.
He was "a good friend, person and a good tenant," the restaurateur told the
Star Tribune. "He was family. His co-workers and friends loved him."
Protesters filled the intersection Tuesday evening in the street where Floyd
died, chanting and carrying banners that read, "I can't breathe" and "Jail
killer KKKops." They eventually marched about 2 1/2 miles to a city police
precinct, with some protesters damaging windows, a squad car and spraying
graffiti on the building.
A line of police in riot gear eventually confronted the protesters, firing
tear gas and projectiles. Some protesters kicked canisters back toward police.
Some protesters stacked shopping carts to make a barricade at a Target store
across the street from the station, and though steady rain diminished the
crowd, tense skirmishes stretched late into the evening.
Ben Crump, a prominent civil rights and personal injury attorney, said he
had been hired by Floyd's family.
The death came amid outrage over the death of Ahmaud Arbery, who was fatally
shot Feb. 23 in Georgia after a white father and son pursued the 25-year-old
black man they had spotted running in their subdivision. More than two months
passed before charges were brought. Crump also represents Arbery's father.