Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey is calling for the officer who knelt on George Floyd’s neck to be arrested and charged. Floyd died Monday night after he was arrested, handcuffed and pinned to the ground by an officer’s knee on his neck as he lay face down repeatedly saying, “I can’t breathe.”
In a five-minute video captured by a bystander, people nearby plead with the officer to stop, telling him that the man can’t breathe and is bleeding from his nose. But the officer did not remove his knee even after George Floyd became silent and motionless.
The officer, who has been identified as Derek Chauvin, and three other officers who were at the scene but did not intervene have been fired. Their names are Thomas Lane; Tou Thao and J Alexander Kueng.
At around 8 p.m. on Memorial Day, the four officers responded to a call from a small grocery store in South Minneapolis about an alleged forgery. When the first two officers arrived, they saw Floyd sitting on the hood of the car and said they thought he matched the description of the suspect. He was standing in handcuffs before the second police car arrived.
The bystander video sparked nationwide outrage and a large protest in Minneapolis last night. In a press conference today Frey said: “There are precedents and protocols sitting in the reserves of institutions just like this one that would give you about a thousand reasons not to do something, not to speak out, not to act so quickly. And I’ve wrestled with, more than anything else over the last 36 hours, one fundamental question: Why is the man who killed George Floyd not in jail?,” he said. “If you had done it, or I had done it, we would be behind bars right now. And I cannot come up with a good answer to that question.”
Frey noted that the officer involved did not make a split-second decision incorrectly. “There’s somewhere around 300 seconds in those five minutes, every one of which the officer could have turned back, every second of which he could have removed his knee from George Floyd’s neck. Every one of which he could have listened to the community around him clearly saying that he needed to stop. Every one of which you heard George Floyd himself articulating the pain he was feeling, his inability to breathe, I can’t see coming to a different answer there and I think it’s incumbent on all of us to say that.”
Attorney Eric Hageman, who has successfully sued police officers in brutality cases, told the StarTribune that an officer must perceive the use of force as “objectively reasonable” at the time it is used, according to a standard established by a landmark 1989 Supreme Court case, Graham v. Connor.
Some factors a court may consider are: the severity of the underlying crime, whether the suspect was actively resisting arrest and whether the suspect’s behavior presented a threat to the safety of the officer or others, Hageman said. “The video would appear that he was using force solely for the purpose of inflicting harm, which is unconstitutional.”