Friends, family of man who died in MPD custody remember 'Big Floyd'

A man holds a side that reads "rest in power"
People hold signs and listen to speakers on Tuesday in front of Cup Foods, where George Floyd who was restrained by Minneapolis police officers and later died.
Evan Frost | MPR News

Family and friends of George Floyd, a black man who died after being pinned to the ground by Minneapolis police officers on Monday, say he was a supportive and gentle presence. 

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

Floyd, who also went by his middle name, Perry, was a native of Texas, according to relatives, and lived in St. Louis Park.

The 46-year-old was employed as a security guard at Conga Latin Bistro in Minneapolis.

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

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

“My employee George Floyd was murdered by a police officer that had no compassion, used his position to commit a murder of someone that was begging for his life.”

Thunstrom posted that he’d like to write more about Floyd, but his vision was too blurry from his tears.

Twin Cities musician Maria Isa was a regular performer and customer at Conga. She said “Big Floyd” was well-known in her musical circles. He knew artists by name, and would help them load in equipment when they were playing shows.

Isa remembers how thrilled he was to meet her daughter for the first time, and how he called Isa “superstar” when he saw her.

“He recognized us and knew us by name and would make sure we were safe, whether it was just getting a drink at the bar, eating dinner with our families, or spending a night to dance at the club,” Isa said. “I appreciated that from him, he made me feel welcome.” 

Floyd’s death has shocked and outraged people across the nation. Video recorded by a bystander and posted to social media shows the man on the ground saying he can’t breathe as a police officer kneels on his neck.

The Twin Cities musical community is grieving Floyd’s death and questioning how to address police brutality, Isa said.

“It’s troubling for me to think about the next steps of trying to mentally heal our children and our communities, and our families, who are just numb and tired of this,” Isa said. “What happened to George is horrible. No one deserves that.”

Floyd’s death is being investigated by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, with assistance from the FBI. The officer who kneeled on Floyd’s neck and three others present at the scene have been fired.

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.