‘I can’t breathe’: 4 Minneapolis officers fired after black man dies in custody

  • Christine Hauser, Derrick Bryson Taylor and Neil Vigdor, The New York Times
    Published: 2020-05-27 16:10:15 BdST

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Protesters gather at the scene where George Floyd, an unarmed black man, was pinned down by a police officer kneeling on his neck before later dying in hospital in Minneapolis, Minnesota, US, May 26, 2020. REUTERS

The FBI and Minnesota law enforcement authorities are investigating the arrest of a black man who died after being handcuffed and pinned to the ground by an officer’s knee, in an episode that was recorded on video by a bystander and sparked large protests in Minneapolis on Tuesday.

After the graphic video circulated widely on social media, the mayor denounced the actions of the four officers who were involved and said Tuesday afternoon that they had been fired. He identified the victim as George Floyd.

Floyd, 46, a resident of St. Louis Park, Minnesota, a Minneapolis suburb, was pronounced dead at 9:25pm Monday at Hennepin County Medical Centre, according to the medical examiner.

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

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

The arrest took place Monday evening, the Minneapolis Police Department said in a statement, after officers 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.”

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,” that said that additional information had “been made available” and that the FBI was joining the investigation.

On Tuesday afternoon, Mayor Jacob Frey of Minneapolis 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. 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.

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.”

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

© 2020 New York Times News Service