Four Minneapolis police officers have been fired for their involvement in the death of a Black man who was held down with a knee on his neck 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.
The death of George Floyd, 46, drew hundreds of people to the streets of Minneapolis on Tuesday.
Protesters — many wearing face masks — held “I can’t breathe” signs and chanted together near the site of Monday’s incident. Some motorists honked in support.
In response to the news of the death of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man who died after he was violently assaulted by police, People For the American Way Senior Director of Outreach and Public Engagement Diallo Brooks released the following statement:
“The death of George Floyd, after he repeatedly said ‘I can’t breathe’ and begged a white police officer to stop assaulting him, is painful and unacceptable. Our hearts and prayers go out to his family members and loved ones as we mourn yet another life lost. While Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey condemned one officer for failing to display the most basic level of humanity in his encounter with Floyd, and the city took swift action to terminate the officers involved, we must continue our unified and resounding calls for national justice reform. Being Black in America cannot be a death sentence, and Floyd’s death must not be in vain. This cannot be our future.”
Later in the evening, police attempted to disperse the crowds outside the Minneapolis Police 3rd Precinct after a front glass window was smashed, John Elder, director of the office of public information for the police department, told CNN.
The four officers were “separated from employment,” Officer Garrett Parten, a police spokesman, said Tuesday.
“I support your decisions, one hundred percent,” said Mayor Jacob Frey, in a statement about 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.”
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.
Mayor Jacob Frey has said the technique used to pin George Floyd’s head to the ground was against department regulations.
After several minutes of pleading with an officer pressing a knee to the back of his neck, the man appeared motionless, his eyes shut, his head against the pavement.
Frey, speaking during a town hall streamed on Facebook, said the officer had no reason to employ the hold on the man’s neck.
“The technique that was used is not permitted; is not a technique that our officers get trained in,” he said. “And our chief has been very clear on that piece. There is no reason to apply that kind of pressure with a knee to someone’s neck.”
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 Benjamin Crump, in a statement, identified the man as Floyd and said he was representing his family. The mayor also identified him on Twitter.
“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.”
Floyd’s cause and manner of death remains pending and is being investigated by local, state and federal law enforcement, the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office said in a statement.
Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar via Twitter called the incident “yet another horrifying and gutwrenching instance of an African American man dying.”