Another African-American man has died during an encounter with Minneapolis police, leaving a community to process more outrage and heartbreak.
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey announced Tuesday that the four officers involved in George Floyd's death have been fired. Both the FBI and the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) are investigating, and the Minneapolis Police Department is likely to conduct its own review. That process is critical. All of the facts must be examined in a credible and transparent process.
Yet based on the shocking Facebook video that the public has seen thus far, it's difficult to imagine why it would be necessary for one officer to press his knee into the neck of the handcuffed man, who can be heard telling officers he's in distress before he appears to become unresponsive.
"Please, please, please, I can't breathe. Please, man," Floyd is heard saying on the video.
The white officer, identified as Derek Chauvin in a Star Tribune news story, also ignored pleas from nearby witnesses to get off Floyd and just put him in the squad vehicle. Another officer, who the story identified as Tou Thao, appears to be more concerned with crowd control than Floyd's condition.
Even if Floyd had been resisting officers before being pushed face down on the pavement and handcuffed, as an initial police news release stated, how could the knee to the neck be justified? John Elder, an MPD spokesman who is a part-time sheriff's deputy in another county, told reporters that the technique was not authorized by the department.
"In my years as an officer, that would not be what I would ever consider a chokehold," Elder said.
The nonviolent incident that led to Floyd's death began about 8 p.m. Monday, when police were called about a person trying to use counterfeit money at Cup Foods in south Minneapolis. Police arrived and found Floyd, who matched the suspect's description, sitting on the hood of his car. Cops ordered him away from vehicle and took him into custody. What followed, at least in part, is captured on the Facebook video. A cause of death has not yet been determined.
A visibly shaken Frey said Tuesday that Floyd should not have lost his life in the encounter. "Being black in America should not be a death sentence … . For five minutes, we watched a white officer press his knee into a black man's neck. Five minutes. When you hear someone calling for help, you're supposed to help. This officer failed in the most basic, human sense … . Whatever the investigation reveals, it does not change the simple truth, [Floyd] should still be with us this morning," Frey said.
Gov. Tim Walz released a statement saying "the lack of humanity in this disturbing video is sickening. We will get answers and seek justice. This must stop now."
Frey, Walz and other public officials and law enforcement leaders pledging that justice will be served will face an increasingly skeptical public not only in Minnesota, but across the nation.
Too often black men end up injured or dead in officer-involved confrontations in America. And too often the investigations into those incidents end up leaving more questions than answers.