Officials in Minnesota along with the FBI are investigating an incident in which a Black man was subdued when a Minneapolis police officer used his knee to put pressure on the man’s neck while being apprehended on Monday evening (May 25.) The man, who was identified by attorney Benjamin Crump, as George Floyd, has since died.
The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports that police were called to investigate an alleged forgery and saw a man fitting the description of the suspect in his car. Police told the newspaper that the man was at first compliant, but then resisted and officers used force to apprehend him. This is until they realized he was in “medical distress” and an ambulance was called. Police were wearing body cameras at the time.
A video taken by a bystander shows one of the arresting officers pinning the man down to the ground while using his hands and knee on the Floyd’s neck to hold him in place, apparently constricting his breathing and causing him to gasp for air. “Please, please, please I can’t breathe. Please, man,” he begs. Bystanders vocally protest the officer’s methods for several minutes until the man stops gasping. He died at a nearby hospital shortly afterward.
Nekima Levy-Armstrong, a local activist told the Star-Tribune that the entire incident is reminiscent of the fatal encounter in 2014 in Staten Island, NY between Eric Garner and then-Officer Daniel Pantaleo who put him in a chokehold while arresting Garner. All while Garner was gasping for air saying, “I can’t breathe.”
“It just reminds me of Eric Garner once again: a Black man being accosted by police and pleading for his life saying he couldn’t breathe,” said Levy-Armstrong. “I’m fully convinced that if police wouldn’t have been called to the scene, then he would still be alive.”
She said that witnesses told her that the man had been involved with a dispute with a store owner prior to the police being called.
“Whatever the man may have done should not have ended in a death sentence,” she told the Star-Tribune. “What started as an alleged economic incident once again turned deadly for a Black man.”
The apprehension was originally streamed on Facebook Live by a witness who told the newspaper that it may have started in another location. “When I showed up they weren’t in front of Cup Foods, the police were across the street next to [a] blue Mercedes,” DeVondre Pike told the Star-Tribune via Facebook Messenger.
Police spokesman John Elder said officers tried to resuscitate the man, who is thought to be in his 40s, at the scene, and that no weapons were used in the incident. He said that both the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Investigation and the FBI have both been called in to review the situation.
“As we started digging into this and seeing more we realized that the FBI needed to aid in this investigation,” Elder said, according to the Star-Tribune. We called and they readily agreed.”
Meanwhile, the mayors of Minneapolis and twin city St. Paul, reacted with shock and dismay. Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey described what happened as a “failure” and apologized to the man’s family and the Black community.
St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter said the incident was “vile” in a tweet and called for accountability.
None of the names of the arresting officers have been made public as of yet.