Four Minneapolis police officers have been fired for their involvement in the death of a black man who was held down with a knee as he protested that he couldn’t breathe, officials said Tuesday.
The FBI is investigating the incident, which drew widespread condemnation of the officers after a video showing part of the encounter circulated on social media.
Mayor Jacob Frey said the technique used to pin George Floyd’s head to the ground was against department regulations.
After several minutes of pleading with an officer pressing a knee to the back of his neck, the man appeared motionless, his eyes shut, his head against the pavement.
Officers responding to an alleged forgery in progress Monday evening were initially told that a person later described as the suspect was sitting on a car and appeared to be under the influence, police said.
A pair of officers located the man, who was at that point inside the car and who police said “physically resisted” the officers when ordered to get out. Officers handcuffed the man, who “appeared to be suffering medical distress,” according to police. He died at a hospital a short time later, police said.
The four officers were “separated from employment,” Officer Garrett Parten, a police spokesman, said Tuesday.
“I support your decisions, one hundred percent,” Frey, in a statement, said of police Chief Medaria Arradondo’s firing of the officers. “It is the right decision for our city. The right decision for our community, it is the right decision for the Minneapolis Police Department.”
Frey, speaking later during a town hall streamed on Facebook, said the officer had no reason to employ the hold on the man’s neck.
“The technique that was used is not permitted; is not a technique that our officers get trained in on,” he said. “And our chief has been very clear on that piece. There is no reason to apply that kind of pressure with a knee to someone’s neck.”
The video shows two officers by the man on the ground — one of them with his knee over the back of the man’s neck. The video did not capture what led up to the arrest or what police described as the man resisting arrest.
“Please, I can’t breathe,” the man said, screaming for several minutes before he became silent. Bystanders urged the officer to release the man from his hold.
Civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump, in a statement, identified the man as Floyd and said he was representing his family. The mayor also identified him on Twitter.