On Tuesday, a video surfaced showing a Minneapolis police officer kneeling on a handcuffed man lying prone in the street with his knee on the back of the man’s neck for nearly seven minutes. According to the report, the officers in the video were attempting to arrest the man, who has now been identified as George Floyd.

The video, which was recorded by Darnella Frazier in front of Cup Foods restaurant, shows Floyd groaning and repeatedly saying, “I can’t breathe” as the officer continues to place his weight on the back of his neck. “My stomach hurts. My neck hurts. Everything hurts. … (I need) water or something. Please. Please. I can’t breathe, officer. … I cannot breathe. I cannot breathe,” he said, struggling to speak before losing consciousness and becoming unresponsive seconds later.

 

 

Bystanders witnessing the encounter pleaded with the officers to let up on Floyd. One man said, “That’s bulls—t, Bro. You’re stopping his breathing right there, Bro. Get him off the ground, Bro. You’re being a bum right now.” The man noted, “You could have put him in the car by now. He’s not resisting arrest or nothing. You’re enjoying it. Look at you. Your body language — you bum. You know that’s bogus right now.”

A female bystander asked the officers to check Floyd’s pulse. “He’s not responsive right now,” she said. “He’s not moving.” The officer had his knee on the man’s neck for ten minutes. Shortly after, an ambulance arrives and takes Floyd to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead. It is not yet clear whether he died at the scene or the hospital.

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey weighed in on the incident during a Tuesday press conference, calling Floyd’s death “simply awful” and “wrong at every level.”

According to a statement released by the police department, the officers were responding to a “forgery in progress.” The report says, “Officers were advised that the suspect was sitting on top of a blue car and appeared to be under the influence. Two officers arrived and located the suspect, a male believed to be in his 40s, in his car.”

The report continues, “After he got out, he physically resisted officers. Officers were able to get the suspect into handcuffs and noted he appeared to be suffering medical distress. Officers called for an ambulance.”

Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo told reporters on Tuesday that the FBI will head the investigation into the matter due to the possible violation of civil rights. Later in the afternoon, Mayor Jacob Frey announced on Twitter that the officers involved in the altercation have been fired.

More facts regarding this case will emerge as the FBI pursues its investigation. However, it is difficult to imagine a scenario in which the actions of these officers were justifiable. If the statement from the police department is accurate, and Floyd had been resisting previously, he was clearly not attempting to fight off the officers at the point when the video starts. In fact, he was already in handcuffs, so there isn’t much he can do against multiple officers who were at the scene.

It is also hard to believe that the officer with his knee on Floyd’s neck wasn’t aware of the damage he was causing. When Floyd was able to catch a breath, he told the officer that he could not breathe. The bystanders repeatedly pointed out that he was not responsive when he lost consciousness. Nevertheless, the officer refused to take his knee off of Floyd’s neck. It does not seem possible that this action did not cause, or contribute to, the man’s death.

This seems to be yet another instance in which a member of law enforcement violates the rights of an American citizen. As much as we are frustrated by the race-baiting and politicization of these types of stories, the fact remains that this is a problem. It’s not just the fact that some (not all) police officers abuse their authority, it’s the fact that most of the bad apples get away with it.

According to the Cato Institute’s National Police Misconduct Reporting Project, only about 33% of the few officers who are charged with conduct are convicted. Only 36% of these convictions result in prison time. This is about half the number of civilian convictions and incarcerations.

The reality is that these incidents will continue to happen – and may even get worse – as long as these government officials are allowed to abuse their power with impunity.

 

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