USA news

Who is George Floyd and why was he arrested by Minneapolis police last 25 May?

Floyd, a 46-year-old unarmed black man was killed on Monday 25 May. The four police officers involved have been charged over his murder, while angry protests have engulfed the United States.

Who is George Floyd and why was he arrested by Minneapolis police last 25 May?
Andrea Fasani EFE

On Monday 25, May, an unarmed 46-year-old black man, George Floyd, was captured on a bystander's video lying face down in the Minneapolis street, gasping for air and groaning. "I can't breathe," he muttered several times, while a white police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.

Eventually Floyd stopped speaking and went motionless, he was later declared dead at a nearby hospital. The four police officers were fired directly after the killing, but no criminal charges were raised until Derek Chauvin, the officer who knelt on Floyd's neck was charged with third-degree murder four days later.

On Wednesday 3 June, charges were filed against the other three officers for aiding and abetting a murder, while the charges against Chauvin were increased to second-degree murder.

In the aftermath of the killing demonstrations protesting the death of George Floyd and police brutality against black people have engulfed the United States.

George Floyd killed at the hands of the police

An aerial photo made with a drone shows firefighters battling fires set near the Minneapolis police 3rd Precinct, during a third day of protests over the arrest of George Floyd.

An aerial photo made with a drone shows firefighters battling fires set near the Minneapolis police 3rd Precinct, during a third day of protests over the arrest of George Floyd.

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey announced the officers' dismissal on Twitter, saying, "This is the right call."

At a news conference earlier in the day, Frey said it was clear the death of the man, later identified as George Floyd, was unjustified, and he acknowledged that race was a factor in Monday evening's fatal encounter.

The case was eerily reminiscent of the 2014 killing of Eric Garner, an unarmed black man in New York City, who died after being put in a police chokehold and telling the officers, "I can't breathe."

The Minneapolis police chief, Medaria Arradondo, told the news conference that the Federal Bureau of Investigation had opened an inquiry into the incident at his request.

"Being black in America should not be a death sentence," the mayor said. "For five minutes we watched as a white police officer pressed his knee into the neck of a black man. For five minutes. When you hear someone calling for help, you are supposed to help."

Suspected counterfeit $20 bill

The police officers now facing charges over the murder of Floyd were responding to a 911 call from a local grocery store, who said they suspected George Floyd had used a counterfeit $20 bill to buy cigarettes.

The attending officers found a man fitting the suspect's description, Floyd, aged in his 40s, in a car, according to a police department account. After Floyd exited the vehicle, the department said, the officers handcuffed him. Floyd refused to enter the police car, saying he suffered from claustrophobia, at which point the police officers forced him to the ground where they held him down and Chauvin knelt on his neck.

Flashmob of protest against the killing of George Floyd in front of the consulate of United States of America on 28 May 2020 in Milan, Italy.

Flashmob of protest against the killing of George Floyd in front of the consulate of United States of America on 28 May 2020 in Milan, Italy.

Floyd unable to breath

The cell phone footage of the incident does not show the confrontation. It opens with Floyd seen lying beside the rear wheel of a vehicle, with a white officer pinning him to the street by pressing a knee into Floyd's neck.

Floyd can be heard repeatedly moaning and gasping while he pleads, "Please, I can't breathe, please, man," as onlookers gather around, growing increasingly agitated and shouting at police to let him up. After several minutes, Floyd gradually grows quiet and ceases to move.

An ambulance took the suspect to the hospital, where he died a short time later, police said. No weapons were involved, and no officers were hurt in the incident, according to police.

In the case of Garner, he was placed in a banned chokehold by a white New York City police officer who was trying to arrest him for illegally selling loose cigarettes on the street. Garner's death fueled nationwide protests against police brutality. And his dying words, "I can't breathe," became a rallying cry for the Black Lives Matter movement calling attention to a wave of African-Americans and other minorities who died at the hands of police using unjustified lethal force.

Attorney Benjamin Crump, who has been retained by Floyd's family, said in a statement, "This abusive, excessive and inhumane use of force cost the life of a man who was being detained by the police for questioning about a non-violent charge."

"How many 'while black' deaths will it take until the racial profiling and undervaluing of black lives by police finally ends?" Crump said.