By Christine Hauser
The New York Times Company
The FBI and Minnesota law enforcement
authorities are investigating the arrest of a black man who died after being handcuffed and pinned to the ground by an officer’s knee, in an episode that was recorded on video by a bystander and denounced by the mayor of Minneapolis on Tuesday.
After the shocking video circulated widely on social media, the mayor said in the afternoon that four police officers had been fired. He identified the victim as George Floyd.
The arrest took place Monday evening, the Minneapolis Police Department said in a statement, after officers responded to a call about a man suspected of forgery. The police said the man, believed to be in his 40s, was found sitting on top of a blue car and “appeared to be under the influence.”
“He was ordered to step from his car,” the department’s statement said. “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.”
The statement said that officers called for an ambulance and that the man was taken to Hennepin County Medical Center, “where he died a short time later.”
On Tuesday morning, without referring to the video recorded by a bystander, the police updated a statement that said additional information had “been made available” and that the FBI was joining the investigation.
On Tuesday afternoon, Mayor Jacob Frey of Minneapolis tweeted that the four responding officers involved in the case had been terminated. “This is the right call,” he said.
The bystander video shows a white Minneapolis police officer pressing his knee into a black man’s neck during an arrest, as the man repeatedly says “I can’t breathe” and “please I can’t breathe.”
“Being black in America should not be a death sentence,” Frey said in a statement Tuesday. “For five minutes, we watched a white officer press his knee into a black man’s neck. Five minutes.”
The video shows that, after a few minutes, the man, lying face down in the street with his hands cuffed behind his back, becomes silent and motionless; the officer continues to pin the man to the pavement with his knee.
Bystanders plead and curse, begging the officer to stop. An ambulance medic arrives and, reaching under the officer’s knee, feels for a pulse on the man’s neck.
The man loaded into an ambulance and taken away.