“I Can’t Breathe”

Ken AshfordCourts/Law, Racial HomicidesLeave a Comment

A Minnesota man is dead after being handcuffed and pinned under the knee of a police officer in front of numerous onlookers. Video of the encounter appeared on social media Monday, and the Star Tribune reports that an attorney for the man’s family has identified him as George Floyd. The video shows Floyd lying facedown on the cement, almost under the back wheel of the police vehicle, with a white police officer pressing his knee down—with his body’s full weight—onto the back of Floyd’s neck. According to sources who spoke to the Tribune, the officer in question is Derek Chauvin. 

Floyd can be heard pleading with the officer to let up on him, telling the officer he cannot breathe, that “My stomach hurts. My neck hurts. Everything hurts.” Bystanders also plead with the officer to let up off of Floyd, as there is nowhere for him to go at this point. A couple of minutes into the video, Floyd seems to pass out, at which point the crowd becomes more incensed at the officers who refuse to let up on the now completely unresponsive man. The officer does not let up on Floyd until paramedics come and put the unresponsive Floyd onto a stretcher. Floyd was later declared dead. Police say he suffered a “medical episode.”

Early in the video, the police officer can be heard telling an angry onlooker that Floyd was fine, saying “if he’s talking, he’s fine.” The crowd continues to berate the officer, justifiably so, and when it becomes clear that Floyd is completely unresponsive, the crowd becomes even angrier. At one point the officer, still yet to be identified, grabs for mace from his holster as the crowd surges. He never relieves any pressure from Floyd’s neck.

According to the Tribune, “several officers” have been relieved of duty pending an investigation. This includes an officer identified as Tou Thao, who is believed to be the officer standing between the man applying the egregious knee chokehold and the crowd. Minneapolis Police spokesman John Elder told the news that “In my years as an officer, that would not be what I would ever consider a chokehold.” 

According to Elder, the case had been turned over to the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA), and the FBI had been asked to help with the investigation. Police initially told reporters that the reason the ambulance came was because the police considered Floyd to be in “medical distress,” also prompting the question as to how and why the unnamed officer thought kneeling with his full weight on a person in medical distress was a humane idea.

Police were reportedly called to the area after reports of some kind of argument between someone matching Floyd’s description and a store owner. One report says it included counterfeit money. Police say they found Floyd sitting on the hood of his own car. According to Police Chief Medaria Arradondo, the officers were wearing body cameras. 

To be clear, if George Floyd was running around hacking at people with a machete and every time someone stopped him and handcuffed him he got up and broke free from his handcuffs and resumed attacking people, then maybe you would want someone to hold him down using their knees and body weight. According to Heavy, Chauvin has been with the Minnesota police department since 2001 and has been involved in two police-related shootings.

According to Fox 9, Chauvin is now being represented by attorney Tom Kelly, known for his defense of officer Jeronimo Yanez in the shooting death of Philando Castile.

The video, which can be watched below, is very graphic and tough to view.