Four Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) officers have been fired after a black man was killed in an arrest that has elicited widespread condemnation, Mayor Jacob Frey announced Tuesday.
“Four responding MPD officers involved in the death of George Floyd have been terminated,” Frey said on Twitter, referring to the victim. “This is the right call.”
Video of Floyd’s arrest captured by a bystander and posted on Facebook appears to show the victim pinned to the ground, repeatedly pleading “I can’t breathe” for nearly four minutes as an officer holds his neck to the ground with his knee. He appeared to be in handcuffs in the video footage.
Shortly after Floyd appears to lose consciousness, but the officer maintains his position on the victim.
His pulse is checked about three minutes after he stops gasping for air while the officer continues to press his knee on Floyd’s neck, but it is unclear from the video what the assessment was at that point. He is then loaded on to a stretcher and moved into an ambulance.
He does not appear to be conscious.
Police said Floyd “physically resisted” officers after he exited a vehicle during an arrest that was reportedly made after they approached him while responding to a fraud in progress call.
The video does not show what led up to Floyd being forced to the ground by the officers.
The local police department said it is handing off the investigation into Floyd’s death to the FBI and “will cooperate fully” with the probe as investigators work to determine whether federal charges are warranted in his death.
Frey earlier Tuesday appeared emotionally shaken when he addressed reporters, saying “Being black in America should not be a death sentence.”
“Whatever the investigation reveals it does not change the simple truth that he should be with us this morning. I believe what I saw, and what I saw was wrong at every level,” he said.
Melvin Carter, the mayor of neighboring St. Paul, Minnesota, lashed out after seeing what he said was “video of a Minneapolis police officer killing a defenseless, handcuffed man,” calling it “one of the most vile and heartbreaking images I’ve ever seen.”
“The officer who stood guard is just as responsible as his partner; both must be held fully accountable. This must stop now,” he said.
Floyd’s death has strong parallels to that of Eric Garner who died during a fatal 2014 arrest in New York, repeatedly pleading with officers, “I can’t breathe.”
The phrase became a rallying point for protesters demonstrating against the killings of unarmed black men and women by police. It has continued to resonate nearly six years later.
Floyd’s family has retained high-profile attorney Benjamin Crump, who has represented several black individuals killed during confrontations with police.