What We Know About the Death of George Floyd


George Floyd, a 46-year-old African-American man, died after being handcuffed and pinned to the ground by a police officer’s knee on Monday, in an episode that was recorded on video and that sparked large protests in Minneapolis.

The explosive footage, recorded by a bystander and shared widely on social media early Tuesday, incited community outrage, an F.B.I. civil rights investigation and the firing of the officer and three colleagues who were also at the scene.

Mr. Floyd’s relatives told CNN on Tuesday night that the officers should be charged with murder.

“They treated him worse than they treat animals,” said Philonise Floyd, Mr. Floyd’s brother. “They took a life — they deserve life.”

[How bystander videos are challenging police narratives.]

Mr. Floyd, a resident of St. Louis Park, Minn., a Minneapolis suburb, was pronounced dead at 9:25 p.m. Monday at Hennepin County Medical Center, according to the medical examiner.

Jovanni Thunstrom, who employed Mr. Floyd as a bouncer at his restaurant, Conga Latin Bistro, said in an interview on Tuesday that he couldn’t believe what he saw in the video.

“It’s hard to believe a police officer would do that,” said Mr. Thunstrom, who was also Mr. Floyd’s landlord. “He wasn’t a threat to justify excessive force used on him.”

Mr. Thunstrom said that Mr. Floyd had become a friend during the five years that he worked for him and the four years that he rented a duplex unit from him in St. Louis Park.

“No one had nothing bad to say about him,” he said. “They all are shocked he’s dead. He never caused a fight or was rude to people.”

Mr. Thunstrom said that the last time he had heard from Mr. Floyd was when he paid his rent last week and told him that he was looking for a job. The restaurant where Mr. Floyd worked has been closed to on-site dining since March because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“I hope something changes, because I lost a friend,” Mr. Thunstrom said.

The arrest of Mr. Floyd took place on Monday evening. The Minneapolis Police Department said in a statement that officers had responded to a call about a man suspected of forgery. The police said the man was found sitting on top of a blue car and “appeared to be under the influence.”

“He was ordered to step from his car,” the department’s statement said. “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.”

The statement said that officers had called for an ambulance.

On Tuesday morning, without referring to the video recorded by a bystander, the police updated a statement, titled “Man Dies After Medical Incident During Police Interaction,” saying that additional information had “been made available” and that the F.B.I. was joining the investigation.

The bystander video shows a white Minneapolis police officer pressing his knee into a black man’s neck during an arrest, as the man repeatedly says, “I can’t breathe,” and, “Please, I can’t breathe.”

The video recorded in Minneapolis on Monday shows that after a few minutes, the man, lying face down in the street with his hands cuffed behind his back, becomes silent and motionless; the officer continues to pin the man to the pavement with his knee.

Bystanders plead and curse, begging the officer to stop and telling him the man’s nose is bleeding. Another officer faces the people gathered on the sidewalk. An ambulance medic arrives and, reaching under the officer’s knee, feels for a pulse on the man’s neck.

The medic turns away, and a stretcher is wheeled over. The arrested man is then rolled onto the stretcher, loaded into an ambulance and taken away.

The video did not show what had happened before the officer pinned the man to the ground by his neck.

Mayor Jacob Frey of Minneapolis said on Tuesday that he did not know how the initial police statement, describing a “medical incident,” had come to be written, but he said he wanted to be “absolutely as transparent as possible.”

“It’s the kind of thing where you don’t hide from the truth, you lean into it, because our city is going to be better off for it, no matter how ugly, awful it is,” he said. “If it points out the institutional racism that we are still working through right now, well, good — it means that we’ve got a lot of work to go.”

On Tuesday afternoon, Mr. Frey tweeted that four officers involved in the case had been terminated. “This is the right call,” he said.

The Police Department’s statement said that no weapons had been used and that the officers’ body cameras were recording. Mr. Frey said at a news conference Tuesday that he had seen the video “taken and posted by a civilian” but not the body camera footage.

He said he had asked the federal agency to investigate, and he declined to comment on what information he had received.

The F.B.I. is conducting a federal civil rights investigation, the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension said in a statement. The state bureau also said that it was conducting its own investigation at the request of the Police Department and that it would release its findings to the Hennepin County district attorney’s office.

The names of the officers will be released after interviews, it said.

The Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday, but the head of the union said in a statement to the local news media that people should not rush to judgment while the investigation is ongoing.

“Our officers are fully cooperating,” the union head, Lt. Bob Kroll, said. “We must review all video. We must wait for the medical examiner’s report.”

Hundreds of people gathered on Tuesday at the intersection where Mr. Floyd had been subdued, protesting the conduct of the officers.

The local news media reported that two people had been shot near the protest, but a Police Department spokesman, John Elder, said one person had been shot “away” from the protest and described the person’s injuries as not life-threatening. It was not immediately clear who did the shooting, he said.

Some protesters vandalized police vehicles with graffiti and targeted the precinct house where the four officers had been assigned, Mr. Elder said.

The police fired foam projectiles, known as marking rounds, and used tear gas to try to repel some of the protesters, he said. The Police Department did not immediately say if there had been any arrests.

Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, condemned the force used by the officers.

“George Floyd deserved better and his family deserves justice,” Mr. Biden wrote on Twitter on Tuesday night. “His life mattered.”

Tim Walz, the governor of Minnesota, called the episode “sickening.”

“We will get answers and seek justice,” he said.

As the video spread on social media on Monday night, the arrest quickly drew comparisons to the case of Eric Garner, a black man who died in New York police custody in 2014 after an officer held him in a chokehold. Mr. Garner’s repeated plea of “I can’t breathe” — also recorded by a cellphone — became a rallying cry at demonstrations against police misconduct around the country.

Similar high-profile cases have generated large protests and given rise to a national debate over police conduct toward black people, as happened in 2016 after an African-American man, Philando Castile, was shot dead by a police officer during a traffic stop in a suburb of St. Paul, Minn. The officer, Jeronimo Yanez, was later acquitted of second-degree manslaughter and of endangering safety by discharging a firearm in the shooting.

“Being black in America should not be a death sentence,” Mr. Frey, the mayor, said in a statement on Tuesday. “For five minutes, we watched a white officer press his knee into a black man’s neck. Five minutes.”

Reporting was contributed by Christine Hauser, Derrick Bryson Taylor, Neil Vigdor, Audra D.S. Burch and John Eligon.





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