MINNEAPOLIS (CN) — Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey on Wednesday called for the prosecution of a police officer shown on video kneeling on the neck of a handcuffed black man, who died shortly after the incident.
Frey called on Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman to press charges against the Minneapolis police officer in connection with 48-year-old security guard George Floyd’s death, two days after the arrest and just a day after protesters clashed with police at the city’s 3rd Police Precinct.
“I’ve wrestled with, more than anything else over the last 36 hours, one fundamental question: Why is the man who killed George Floyd not in jail?” Frey said at a press conference. “If you had done it, or I had done it, we would be behind bars right now.”
The press conference was Frey’s second in as many days. On Tuesday, he announced the firing of four officers who were at Cup Foods on Chicago Avenue, a thoroughfare in south Minneapolis, when one of them was shown on video kneeling on Floyd’s neck for nearly eight minutes, almost four minutes of which showed Floyd apparently unconscious. The officers detained Floyd on Monday evening on suspicion of trying to use a counterfeit $20 bill at the convenience store.
In the widely-circulated video, Floyd is shown lying in the street, gasping and saying “I can’t move,” “I cannot breathe” and calling for water until going silent as a white officer leans over him, his knee on Floyd’s neck. Onlookers, including one who identified herself as an off-duty firefighter, ask the officers to get off of Floyd with increasing intensity, demanding that they check his pulse.
Floyd was taken by ambulance to Hennepin County Medical Center, where he died at 9:25 p.m. Monday, about an hour after the arrest. His cause of death is “pending further testing and investigation,” according to a medical examiner’s report.
The Minneapolis Police Department said that Floyd had physically resisted the officers after complying with orders to get out of his car.
“Officers were able to get the suspect into handcuffs and noted he appeared to be suffering medical distress,” the department said. “Officers called for an ambulance.”
City officials identified the kneeling officer as Derek Chauvin, a 19-year department veteran who has been involved in two other police shootings, including one fatality. Another of the officers, who stood nearby with his hands in his pockets talking to onlookers, was identified as Tou Thao.
The two other officers involved were also identified Wednesday as Thomas Lane and J. Alexander Kueng. Neither are seen face-on in videos of the incident, but are shown from the back in some.
A crowd of protesters numbering in the thousands blocked two blocks of Chicago Avenue on Tuesday night before marching to the 3rd Precinct, chanting “no justice, no peace, prosecute the police,” among other slogans.
Early attempts at social distancing fell apart quickly, and a smaller group of the protesters spray-painted squad cars, shattered the station’s glass front door, broke squad car windows and threw water bottles and rocks at officers in riot gear. Police responded with rubber bullets, flash-bang devices and tear gas.
The crowd had largely dispersed by 9 p.m., but some protesters stayed at the precinct into the early morning. Left-wing, nonprofit media collective Unicorn Riot was livestreaming a small group of protesters at the precinct as late as 3:30 a.m. Wednesday.
Frey defended police’s use of tear gas and rubber bullets at the protests.
“Right now more than ever, I get the need to protest. I fully understand and appreciate that people need a way to vent and express their sorrow and anger,” the mayor said.
“The cars, and the buildings that were broken or broken into in some form, had live guns and ammo in them,” he continued. “And I spoke with our Chief [Medaria] Arradondo last night…and he told me that he could not run the risk of one tragedy leading to another. Our chief made the decision and I support our chief. I trust his judgment.”