“What we saw was horrible, completely and utterly messed up,” Mayor Jacob Frey said of video taken of the incident. “I believe what I saw, and what I saw was wrong at every level.”
Video of the incident shows a white police officer had a black man pinned to the ground with his knee on the man’s neck.
A man appearing to yell “I can’t breathe” as a Minneapolis police officer pinned him to the ground and put his knee on the man’s neck for about eight minutes died Monday night, prompting the FBI and Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension to step in and investigate.
Video of the incident shows that a white police officer had a black man pinned to the ground next to the back tire of his patrol car with his knee on the man’s neck.
“Please, please, please I can’t breathe,” the man begs. “My stomach hurts. My neck hurts. Please, please. I can’t breathe.”
Onlookers outside the Minneapolis deli urge the officer to get off the man.
“You’re stopping his breathing right now, you think that’s cool?” one man says. “His nose is bleeding, look at his nose!” says a woman.
The officer doesn’t budge.
And then the man goes silent. More people begin to intervene and call for the officer or his partner to check for a pulse. The officer remains on the man’s neck, even as he lay apparently unresponsive, for a total of about eight minutes before paramedics arrive and the man is placed on a stretcher.
“The man looked already dead before the ambulance even got there. He was clearly trying to tell them he couldn’t breathe and they ignored him,” Darnella Frazier, one of the people who filmed the incident, told NBC News.
NBC News does not know what happened before the video recording began.
A statement from the Minneapolis Police Department released early Tuesday said the officers had responded to a report of a forgery in progress and found the suspect in his car. He stepped out of the car when he was ordered to, police said, but then physically resisted officers.
“Officers were able to get the suspect into handcuffs and noted he appeared to be suffering medical distress,” the statement said. “Officers called for an ambulance. He was transported to Hennepin County Medical Center by ambulance where he died a short time later.”
Initially, police said that the department had called in the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension to independently investigate. A short time later, the department announced the FBI would also be investigating.
“We put out the information that we believed to be wholly honest and true. As we dug into it deeper, we realized that in fact it would be appropriate to have the FBI be apart of this investigation as well,” said the department’s director of public information, John Elder.
Police Chief Medaria Arradondo added during a news conference Tuesday morning, “There was additional information that I had received, quite frankly, from a community source that just provided more context than what I had preliminarily, originally.” This prompted him to get the FBI involved “knowing that there could be a question civil rights.”
Federal agents were on the ground, Arradondo said, and would be taking the lead on the investigation. Body camera video was available, but has not been made public.
He said the officers involved were on paid leave. Neither of the officers in the video or the man who died have been identified by the police.
The Minnesota Department of Public Safety Bureau of Criminal Apprehension said investigators would like to speak with anyone who recorded or witnessed the incident. The bureau would be sharing its findings with the FBI and presenting the completed investigation to the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office for review.
“What we saw was horrible, completely and utterly messed up,” Mayor Jacob Frey said of the video during the news conference. “I believe what I saw, and what I saw was wrong at every level.”
“This man’s life matters,” Frey said. “He should not have died, he was a human being and his life mattered. … Whatever the investigation reveals, it does not change the single truth that he should be with us this morning.”
“Being black in America should not be a death sentence,” Frey said. “When you hear someone calling for help, you are supposed to help, and this officer failed in the most basic human sense.”
A protest was planned for Tuesday night at the scene of the incident. Frey encouraged protestors to express their anger, but asked them to do so safely and while social distancing.
In a statement, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn. said, “Justice must be served for this man and his family, justice must be served for our community, and justice must be served for our country.”
“We heard his repeated calls for help. We heard him say over and over again that he could not breathe,” Klobuchar said. “And now we have seen yet another horrifying and gut-wrenching instance of an African American man dying.”
UPDATE: All 4 officers have now been fired!