ST. PAUL — Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey on Wednesday, May 27, called on the Hennepin County Attorney's Office to arrest and charge the officer who, during a police stop Monday night, knelt on the neck of George Floyd, who died soon after.
At a news conference, Frey said after seeing a bystander's cellphone video of the incident — during which the officer is seen kneeling on Floyd's neck for several minutes, and Floyd is heard saying he was unable to breathe — he "can't see coming to a different answer" than charging the officer.
"We watched for five whole excruciating minutes as a white officer firmly pressed his knee into the neck of an unarmed, handcuffed black man," Frey said. "I saw no threat. I saw nothing that would signal that this kind of force was necessary."
The Hennepin County Attorney's Office responded later Wednesday saying they are aware of Frey's recommendation and that they are working with investigators to review the evidence. They said Floyd's case "deserves the best we can give and that's what this office will do."
Thousands took to the streets near the site where Floyd was killed Tuesday night to protest the Minneapolis Police Department and to honor Floyd's life. At times, protesters threw rocks at police officers and broke windows of the police precinct building and squad cars. Officers responded by throwing chemical irritants and shooting rubber bullets to disperse the crowd.
Demonstrators returned to the spot in Minneapolis' Powderhorn neighborhood Wednesday, prompting calls from local police and state officials to maintain safe practices during the demonstration.
In a Wednesday statement, the Minnesota Board of Peace Officer Standards and Training called the video "troubling and disturbing," and said the officer's tactic "do not appear to reflect the training that students receive" in police training. Following the police encounter, Floyd was transported to Hennepin County Medical Center and pronounced dead.
The Minneapolis Fire Department on Wednesday made public an incident report from the Monday evening encounter. According to the report, responders spoke to an off-duty firefighter who witnessed the incident, during which Floyd went “from struggling to unresponsive on the ground while handcuffed and subdued by PD.”
MFD reported that while in the ambulance, Floyd was unresponsive and had no pulse. Medics reportedly put Floyd on a ventilator and IV, and “delivered one shock by their monitor.” His pulse never returned.
The four officers who were present at the scene — Derek Chauvin, Thomas Lane, Tou Thao and J Alexander Kueng — have all been fired from the police department.
The incident has garnered national attention from activists and politicians alike. On Wednesday, President Donald Trump in a tweet called Floyd's death "very sad and tragic," and said the FBI and Department of Justice "are already well into an investigation," which he has asked to be expedited. Also on Wednesday, U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar tweeted, "The police officer who killed George Floyd should be charged with murder."
Gov. Tim Walz and state public safety officials on Wednesday called on witnesses to come forward to hasten the speed of an ongoing investigation into the death. An autopsy had not yet been conducted as of Wednesday, they said.
"We know the public and the community and all of you want to know what happened that fateful day," Department of Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington said. "It will be an investigation that is done right. This will not be an investigation that we cut any corners."
Harrington, Walz, Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan and Attorney General Keith Ellison said they were shocked by video footage depicting Floyd's killing and said the state has work to do in eliminating inequities for communities of color. And they said they wouldn't comment on what steps investigators or prosecutors should take to avoid tainting the process.
"We're not going to pre-judge the facts though the video is so clear before our eyes," Ellison said. "At the end of this process, we want nobody to be able to question the process."
Words of caution as protests persist
State officials and local law enforcement officers on Wednesday issued words of caution to demonstrators in Minneapolis as they again took to the streets to protest Minneapolis police response to the incident.
In a statement, Police Chief Medaria Arradondo said demonstrators near the Third Precinct had destroyed property and warned them against further destruction.
"I'm urging those who are gathering to please do so peacefully," he said. "Criminal behavior will not be tolerated."
Frey said at Wednesday's news conference that he commends "the 99% of protesters that were there last night doing so in a peaceful manner," and that they can get "lumped in" with those who become violent. But "those rights (to protest), they must stop when others' public safety are put at risk."
State public safety and health officials also urged protesters to social distance and wear masks to limit the potential transmission of COVID-19 (most protesters Tuesday night were wearing masks, and free masks were handed out by organizers). And they urged demonstrators as well as law enforcement officers to avoid conflict where possible.
Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said the use of chemical irritants by police officers could cause additional problems with the illness.
"Anything that serves to further exacerbate respiratory illnesses when we're dealing with a virus is certainly something to be watched," Malcolm said.
A push for transparency, policy change
Several Minnesota lawmakers late Tuesday called for independent oversight of investigations into Floyd's death and urged changes in policies that could prevent instances of deadly force encounters in the future.
"While we understand that the facts are still coming to light and that state and local authorities are reviewing the case, we believe that the seriousness of the incident requires additional independent oversight by law enforcement at all levels," Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith along with U.S. Reps. Ilhan Omar and Betty McCollum, all Democrats, wrote in a letter to U.S. Attorney Erica MacDonald and Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman. "We urge you to ensure that all evidence is quickly secured, including all video footage, and to aggressively pursue justice."
Members of the state Legislature's People of Color and Indigenous Caucus on Tuesday called for a full and transparent investigation of Floyd's death and for murder charges to be brought against the officers involved. And they asked that the Republican-led Senate take up legislation that would create a police accountability system, provide counseling to police officers and extend the statute of limitations for wrongful deaths brought on by police officers.
"We fear police brutality has become a de facto accepted policy outcome for Minnesota," the 19 lawmakers said in a news release. "We will continue our efforts to create state laws that bring accountability, greater humanity, and community-centered public safety — all with race equity — towards ending the unacceptable killings of people of color and Indigenous people at the hands of our law enforcement entities."
Theres something u can do right now Mr Sen Majority Leader!
When we reconvene Session let’s pass police accountability legislation, including new ways to investigate, prosecute wrong doers in uniform
House passed some of those bills U can change failure of Senate to act #mnleg https://t.co/HJutyBZrlx
Theres something u can do right now Mr Sen Majority Leader!
Ellison and Harrington also pointed to the policy recommendations they put forth as part of a working group on deadly force incidents and said police departments, communities and the Legislature could implement those measures.