Man dies in MPD custody, 4 cops fired; protesters, police clash

Mayor Frey: 'This man should not have died'

Protesters gather near the Minnesota police 3rd Precinct.
Protesters gather near the 3rd Precinct in Minneapolis during a rally Tuesday in response to the death the day before of George Floyd in police custody.
Richard Tsong-Taatarii | Star Tribune via AP

Updated 1:45 p.m., May 27

Protests turned violent Tuesday night in Minneapolis as anger over the death of George Floyd, a black man who died while in police custody, spilled out onto city streets.

Several hundred protesters gathered in the street where Floyd died, chanting and carrying banners that read, “I can’t breathe” and “hands up, don’t shoot.”

Protesters eventually marched about 2 1/2 miles to the 3rd Precinct police headquarters, with some protesters damaging windows and a squad car, and spraying graffiti on the building. A line of police in riot gear eventually confronted the protesters, firing tear gas.

The chaos erupted hours after four Minneapolis police officers were fired in the wake of a video showing a white Minneapolis police officer with his knee on Floyd's neck Monday night as he told the officer he couldn't breathe. Floyd later died.

The FBI has been called in to probe for possible civil rights violations. The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is also investigating.

On Wednesday, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey took the unusual step of calling on county prosecutors to charge the city police officer who restrained Floyd based on what he saw in the publicly available video. He did not say what the charge should be.

Video of the Monday night incident sent shock waves across the Twin Cities with state and local officials demanding answers.

“George Floyd’s life mattered. He was a human being and what all of us saw in that video was wrong in every sense. It was horrid,” Mayor Jacob Frey said Tuesday in an interview with North News, after the officers had been fired.

“When you hear someone call for help — especially when you’re charged with protecting and serving — you provide that help. This officer failed in the most basic human sense,” the mayor said.

“For five minutes we watched as a white officer pressed his knee in the neck of a black man, who was helpless,” Frey said of the video. “For five whole minutes. This was not a matter of a split-second or poor decision-making.”

Watch: Mayor Frey talks about the death of George Floyd during community conversation (via North News)

When asked whether the officers will be arrested, Frey said that he could not give details on that yet. Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo on Tuesday did not identify the four officers but said there are criminal actions pending.

Attorney Ben Crump, who represents Floyd’s family, urged Frey and Arradondo to fix the policies and training procedures that “permitted this unlawful killing to occur.”

“For four officers to inflict this kind of unnecessary, lethal force — or watch it happen — despite outcry from witnesses who were recording the violence — demonstrates a breakdown in training and policy by the city,“ Crump said in a statement.

A man wearing a black and gray sweater.
George Floyd died after being detained by Minneapolis police officers on Monday.
Courtesy of Ben Crump

The Hennepin County Attorney’s Office posted a statement saying prosecutors were “shocked and saddened” by what they saw in the video. They promised a “thorough, expedited review” for possible charges once the investigation ends.

Floyd, 46, worked security at Conga Latin Bistro, according to the Minneapolis' restaurant's Facebook page.

Owner Jovanni Thunstrom posted a tribute to Floyd, a man he called his “really good friend.”

“We live in a society of law and order, police are suppose to serve and protect, I didn't see none of this,” Thunstrom wrote.

‘Everything hurts’

Police said they found a suspect in a car after being called to the 3700 block of Chicago Avenue South at about 8 p.m. Monday on a report of a forgery in progress.

“He was ordered to step from his car. After he got out, he physically resisted officers,” police spokesperson John Elder said in a statement. “Officers were able to get the suspect into handcuffs and noted he appeared to be suffering medical distress.”

In the roughly 10-minute video, a Minneapolis police officer is seen with his knee on Floyd’s neck. Floyd is lying face down and repeatedly tells the officers he cannot breathe.

A second officer appears to be placing handcuffs on the man, but is largely unseen and a third officer is standing a few feet away, and at times stands in front of the person recording the incident and other onlookers. It’s unclear where the fourth officer may have been.

"Please, please, please, I can't breathe. Please, man,” Floyd can be heard saying to the officer. Throughout the incident, onlookers can be heard imploring the officers to release the man.

At one point and after several minutes, an officer tells the man "to relax" and asks the man what he wants. "I can't breathe,'' he responds. "My stomach hurt, my neck hurt, everything hurts." He asks for water.

A short time later, the man stops moving and stops talking. Paramedics arrive shortly after, roll him over on his back — cradling his neck — and put him on a gurney.

Floyd was taken by ambulance to HCMC, where he died a short time later, police said. The name of the officer seen kneeling on his neck wasn't immediately released.

Three people hug near a memorial.
Whitney Emanuel (center) hugs Ayanna Melander and Mauri Melander Friestleben at the site where George Floyd was restrained by Minneapolis police and later died.
Evan Frost | MPR News

‘Not a lot of trust’

Arradondo was asked Tuesday about the officer using his knee on the man's neck during the arrest.

“We clearly have policies in place regarding placing someone under control,” Arradondo said, stating that examining what happened and how those policies apply “will be part of the full investigation we’ll do internally.”

Police said no weapons were used, and officers' body cameras recorded the incident. All footage has been turned over to the BCA, which investigates most police shootings and in-custody deaths.

Crump called the incident abusive, inhumane and excessive.

“Today, George Floyd’s family is having to explain to his children why their father was executed by police on video,” the attorney said in a statement Tuesday evening. “It’s essential that the city closely examines and changes its policing policies and training procedures.”

Crump has represented the families of Trayvon Martin, shot to death in 2012 in Florida by a neighborhood watch volunteer, Michael Brown, shot to death by police in Ferguson, Mo., in 2014, and Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old shot and killed by police in Cleveland in 2014.

Crowds block Chicago Avenue between 39th and 37th streets.
Crowds block Chicago Avenue between 39th and 37th streets Tuesday afternoon near the site where George Floyd was detained by Minneapolis police.
Evan Frost | MPR News

Civil rights attorney and activist Nekima Levy Armstrong said the incident should not have happened, and said it was appropriate for federal investigators to respond. The officer is white and Floyd is black.

“The hope is the FBI will take this matter seriously, and fairly and impartially investigate his matter, but at the end of the day, the community does not have a lot of trust in those that are part of the system,” she said.

Watch: Protesters on Chicago Avenue near the site where George Floyd was detained by Minneapolis police (via KARE11)

Earlier in the day, Gov. Tim Walz said he would demand answers. “The lack of humanity in this disturbing video is sickening,” Walz wrote on Twitter.

Frey echoed those sentiments, saying on Facebook: “This man should not have died. … I believe what I saw and what I saw is wrong on every level.”

Race problems plague MPD

The Minneapolis Police Department has long struggled to improve its relations with members of the city's black community. City data show African Americans are more likely than others to be stopped and searched by police as well as be the disproportionate targets of police use of force. Efforts to build trust with African Americans have further suffered following fatal police shootings of black men.

The 2015 shooting death of Jamar Clark precipitated several weeks of sustained protests outside the north Minneapolis police precinct. Some witnesses had said Clark was handcuffed when officer Dustin Schwarze shot and killed him at close range. After an investigation, prosecutors deemed Schwarze's use of force was justified and said he was protecting his partner Mark Ringgenberg who was struggling with Clark at the time.

In 2018, officers killed Thurman Blevins and Travis Jordan. Last year, police shot and killed Mario Benjamin.  In each case, the officers were cleared of criminal charges.

The only Minneapolis police officer to be convicted in an on-duty, fatal shooting was Mohamed Noor, who shot and killed Justine Ruszczyk in 2017. Noor is black. Ruszczyk was white.

‘Fully cooperating’

In a statement, the head of the Minneapolis Police Federation, Bob Kroll, called for calm and urged people to let the investigation take its course before drawing conclusions.

"An in-depth investigation is underway," he said. "Our officers are fully cooperating. We must review all video. We must wait for the medical examiner’s report."

Mike Quinn, a retired 23-year Minneapolis police officer who’s offered expert testimony during police misconduct trials on the use of force, viewed the video and said while he didn't see what led up to the confrontation, the man on the ground appeared to be under control.

"I want to be able to justify police use of force,” he said, “but there was no — absolutely no justification for what happened there.”

Quinn who also teaches peer intervention for officers, said cops have the duty to stop colleagues who go too far. "They were obligated to intervene in this case and stop that officer," said Quinn referring to other officers pictured in the video. "And they didn't.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Before you go...

MPR News is dedicated to bringing you clarity in coverage from our reporters across the state, stories that connect us, and conversations that provide perspectives when we need it most. We rely on your help to do this. Your donation has the power to keep MPR News strong and accessible to all during this crisis and beyond.