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'This man should not have died': Local, state, federal officials react to man's death in Minneapolis

People gather around a makeshift memorial Tuesday, May 26, 2020, in Minneapolis, near where an black man was taken into police custody the day before who later died. The FBI and Minnesota agents are investigating the death of a black man in Minneapolis police custody after video from a bystander showed a white officer kneeling on his neck during his arrest as he pleaded that he couldn't breathe. Photo: AP Photo/Jeff Baenen. People gather around a makeshift memorial Tuesday, May 26, 2020, in Minneapolis, near where an black man was taken into police custody the day before who later died. The FBI and Minnesota agents are investigating the death of a black man in Minneapolis police custody after video from a bystander showed a white officer kneeling on his neck during his arrest as he pleaded that he couldn't breathe.

KSTP
Updated: May 26, 2020 04:30 PM
Created: May 26, 2020 12:17 PM

Local, state and federal leaders took to social media to weigh in on a man's death in Minneapolis Tuesday after a video posted online showed a Minneapolis Police officer kneeling on his neck for several minutes.

Nationally-recognized civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump stated he will be representing the family of George Floyd, identifying the man who died following the incident Monday night.

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Minnesota's Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) are investigating the man's death from what police are calling "medical distress."

Civil rights attorney identifies man in fatal Minneapolis incident; FBI, BCA investigation underway

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo spoke early Tuesday morning on the incident.

Frey also posted a statement to his Facebook page, saying in part, "For the better part of the night, I’ve been trying to find the words to describe what happened. All I keep coming back to is this: this man should not have died."

The Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis issued the following statement:

"Now is not the time rush to judgment and immediately condemn our officers. An in-depth investigation is underway. Our officers are fully cooperating. We must review all video. We must wait for the medical examiner's report. Officers' actions and training protocol will be carefully examined after the officers have provided their statements. The Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis will provide full support to the involved officers. We ask that the community remain calm and let the investigation be completed in full."

Gov. Tim Walz tweeted, "The lack of humanity in this disturbing video is sickening. We will get answers and seek justice."

St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter tweeted the video was "one of the most vile and heartbreaking images I've ever seen."

U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., said in part, "There must be a complete and thorough outside investigation into what occurred, and those involved in this incident must be held accountable."

U.S. Sen. Tina Smith, D-Minn., said, "We are once again traumatized by the tragic scene of a black man pleading for his life at the hands of a white police officer. We cannot look away from this injustice and terrible loss of life. Mayor Frey and Chief Arradondo have called for an immediate federal investigation. That's the right thing to do. We must learn exactly what happened, secure justice, and hold the people involved accountable. It is in our power to end this pattern of abuse and death against black people. It's our moral responsibility."

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison provided the following statement on the matter Tuesday:

"George Floyd mattered. Somebody loved him. His life was important. It had value. He lost it yesterday in an encounter with law enforcement that once again raises pain and trauma for so many people.

The available video appears to show George Floyd vocally pleading for his life. He appears to be informing officers that he couldn't breathe while the officer's knee was on his neck. He appeared to present no danger. Video shows onlookers who were disturbed pleading for the officer to give medical attention. Those calls appear to have gone unheeded as Mr. Floyd became unresponsive.

Whenever someone dies at the hand of law enforcement or state power, we owe it to everyone affected to investigate thoroughly. Even though video exists, a careful investigation is necessary and has already begun. If you were on scene, have any information or evidence, or were involved in any way, I encourage you to come forward now and cooperate fully with that investigation.

After the incident is investigated, it will be referred for a determination about prosecution. The Attorney General's office does not have direct prosecutorial jurisdiction in the matter: that belongs with the Hennepin County Attorney's office. However, my office stands ready to assist in any way we can. I am confident that the values of accountability, transparency, and justice will be upheld. I will be a force for them.

The reason that Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington and I formed our working group on police-involved deadly-force encounters is to prevent tragic occurrences like this one. While we're still finding the facts, the recommendations in the report are even more compelling at a moment like this.

The issue of police-community relations has been a point of controversy and pain for the whole of American history. It involves centuries of trauma. In the past several years alone, almost every part of Minnesota has lived through a fatal encounter with law enforcement. George Floyd's death raises that trauma yet again for so many people.

It is legitimate for community members to be outraged by George Floyd's death. During the COVID-19 pandemic, I strongly encourage everyone who wishes to exercise their First Amendment rights to protest to do so safely: use social distancing and wear a mask. It is an act of care for yourselves and your community to do so.

I send my deepest condolences to the family and loved ones of George Floyd. We will seek justice and we will find it."

The American Civil Liberties Union and ACLU of Minnesota said they are calling for a fair, independent and transparent investigation. 

"You can't watch this appalling video posted by brave eyewitnesses on social media without seeing police officers' callous disregard for a Black man's life, and you can't help but conclude that yet another tragic death was both needless and preventable," said ACLU-MN Executive Director John Gordon. 

"Law enforcement officers too often resort to excessive force in interactions with Black and Brown people, despite their duty to protect and serve everyone,"  Gordon said. "These interactions are not new. The systemic targeting of and use of unnecessary force against people of color is woven into the fabric of our law enforcement institutions and stems from the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow in this country.

"The horrifying video of the killing underscores the immediate need for a thorough, fair and transparent investigation into George Floyd's death. The community needs a comprehensive review and the reform of police practices and policies. The officers involved – not just the perpetrator, but also those who stood by and did nothing – must be held accountable."

"Nearly six years after Eric Garner's death in New York — and four years after Philando Castile's in Minnesota — this tragic video shows how little meaningful change has emerged to prevent police from taking the lives of Black people," said ACLU Policing Policy Advisor Paige Fernandez. "Even in places like Minneapolis, where chokeholds are technically banned, Black men are targeted by the police for low-level offenses and are subjected to unreasonable, unnecessary violence. Make no mistake: George Floyd should be alive today. For police to call his death a 'medical incident' is an insult."

Meanwhile, CAIR-Minnesota called for the arrest of both police officers involved in the incident. 

"We are shocked and saddened to the core after watching George Floyd die," said Jaylani Hussein, executive director of CAIR-Minnesota. "It's a dark day in Minneapolis to see an innocent man plead for his life and be choked to death by those who are supposed to protect and serve." 

Minneapolis Council Vice President Andrea Jenkins also provided her thoughts on the matter. 

The Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas said, "The Jewish community is outraged by the killing of George Floyd, a subdued and handcuffed African-American man, by Minneapolis police officers. We demand #JusticeForGeorge"


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