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Four Minneapolis Officers Fired After White Cop Appears to Suffocate Black Man in Viral Video

Footage showed a Minneapolis officer kneeling on George Floyd’s neck until he lost consciousness.

Kelly WeillMay. 26, 2020 1:32 PM ET

The Minneapolis Police Department has fired four officers after footage emerged appearing to show one of them killing an unarmed black man on Monday.

The gruesome video, filmed in Minneapolis, shows a white officer kneeling on George Floyd’s neck for at least seven minutes. Floyd, 40, tells the officer, identified by the Minneapolis Star Tribune as Derek Chauvin, that he can’t breathe and that he is about to die. The officer remains on Floyd’s neck even as bystanders shout that Floyd appears to have gone unconscious. Floyd died in a nearby hospital shortly after the incident, police said in a Tuesday morning statement. 

Minneapolis police characterized Floyd’s death as a “medical incident,” but the FBI and the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension are investigating the officer for possible civil-rights violations.

Chauvin and three other officers associated with the incident were fired Tuesday afternoon.

“Four responding MPD officers involved in the death of George Floyd have been terminated,” Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey tweeted. “This is the right call.”

Trahren Crews, a St. Paul man who organizes with Black Lives Matter Minnesota said the firings were a good first start, but that activists needed to continue to push for accountability.

“Chief Arradondo just fired the four officers. That’s what community pressure does. And having video," he told The Daily Beast.

“It’s great, hats off to the chief, hats off to the mayor." But because of a county attorney, whom local activists have described as a recurring opponent in the police accountability movement, "we know we need to keep the pressure up. We know the [Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis] is going to step in and try to get this guy’s job back. It’s not good enough to fire people.”

Minneapolis police claimed the incident began when the department received a report about a “forgery in progress” on Monday night. Officers said they identified Floyd as the suspect and asked him to step out of his car. He complied but resisted officers, police claim. 

Still, “officers were able to get the suspect into handcuffs and noted he appeared to be suffering medical distress,” the police statement reads. “Officers called for an ambulance. He was transported to Hennepin County Medical Center by ambulance where he died a short time later."

Footage, filmed by a bystander, gives a more detailed picture of what happened between the handcuffing and the hospitalization. “Please, please, please, I can’t breathe, please, man,” Floyd tells Chauvin, who is kneeling on his neck in the footage. 

Later in the clip, Floyd tells Chauvin, “I’m about to die.” Chauvin tells him to relax. “I can’t breathe,” Floyd says. “Please, the knee in my neck, I can’t breathe sir.”

The video does not show the beginning of the arrest. “When I walked up, he was already on the ground,” Darnella Frazier, a bystander who filmed the incident said in a Facebook video. “The cops, their knees—they was pinning him down by his neck and he was crying and shit, saying he couldn’t breathe. They wasn’t trying to take him serious.”

Trahren Crews, a St. Paul man who organizes with Black Lives Matter Minnesota, said

Floyd’s death has drawn comparisons to that of Eric Garner, a Staten Island man who was killed by a New York City police officer who suffocated him in a banned chokehold in 2014. Garner repeatedly told his arresting officers that he could not breathe.

Minnesota officials have condemned Floyd’s death, calling for an investigation of the officers involved. 

“Being black in America should not be a death sentence,” Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said in a Tuesday press conference. “For five minutes, we watched a white officer press his knee into a black man’s neck. Five minutes. When you hear someone calling for help, you’re supposed to help. This officer failed in the most basic, human sense. What happened on Chicago and 38th last night is awful. It was traumatic. It serves as a reminder of how far we have to go.”

Though police claim Floyd died at the hospital, Frazier said he died on the ground. “The police killed him, bro, right in front of everybody,” she said, adding that “five, six minutes” after announcing he couldn’t breathe, Floyd was “sitting there dead.”

Chauvin, who joined the force in 2001, has already been involved in at least three other violent incidents.

In 2006, according to a database by Minneapolis’ Communities United Against Police Brutality, Chauvin was involved in the fatal shooting of a man who stabbed two people before reportedly turning a gun on police. 

In 2008, he shot a man who allegedly reached for an officer’s gun during a domestic violence call. (The man survived the shot.) In 2011, he was one of five officers placed on a standard three-day leave after the non-fatal shooting of a Native American man. The officers returned to work after the force determined that they had acted “appropriately.” (Another officer, not Chauvin, fired the shot.)

Communities United Against Police Brutality also faulted Chauvin indirectly for the deaths of three people, who were struck by a car that Chauvin and another officer were chasing in 2005.

Minneapolis’ Office of Police Conduct complaint database shows seven complaints against him, although all are listed as “closed,” “non-public,” and resulting in “no discipline.” The city’s Civilian Review Authority, which lists complaints prior to September 2012, reveals five more complaints, which are also closed and resulted in no discipline. A prisoner at a Minnesota correctional facility sued Chauvin and seven other officers for “alleged violations of his federal constitutional rights” in 2006, although the case was dismissed. The contents of the complaint were not immediately available. 

Additional reporting by Solomon Gustavo