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Frey: Arrest, charge officer who knelt on George Floyd's neck before death


By Liz Navratil and Libor Jany Star Tribune
Wednesday May 27, 2020


Mayor Jacob Frey on Wednesday called for an arrest and charges against the now-fired Minneapolis police officer who knelt on the neck of George Floyd as he pleaded to breathe shortly before his death.


Mayor Jacob Frey on Wednesday called for an arrest and charges against the now-fired Minneapolis police officer who knelt on the neck of George Floyd as he pleaded to breathe shortly before his death, in an incident caught on video that drew international outrage.

“There are precedents and protocols sitting in the reserves of institutions just like this one that would give you about a thousand reasons not to do something, not to speak out, not to ask so quickly, and I’ve wrestled with that more than anything else over the last 36 hours, with one fundamental question: Why is the man who killed George Floyd not in jail?” Frey said in a news conference. “If you had done it or I had done it we would be behind bars right now and I cannot come up with an answer to that question.”

The city identified the officers involved as Derek Chauvin, whose knee was on Floyd’s neck, Thomas Lane, Tou Thao and J Alexander Kueng. All were fired Tuesday.

Frey said he is calling upon Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman to seek charges involved with the Monday incident. A message was left with Freeman’s office seeking comment.

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The mayor said he made the decision to call for charges after watching video that circulated widely and publicly. He said he has not spoken to the officers involved or seen the footage captured by their body cameras. Frey said the restraint technique used against Floyd is not authorized by the MPD, is not something officers were trained in and “should not be used, period.”

“We watched for five whole excruciating minutes as a white officer firmly pressed his knee into the neck of an unarmed handcuffed black man. I saw no threat. I saw nothing that would signal that this kind of force was necessary,” Frey said.

He noted that in many other cases, officers’ decisions are made in “four or five or six seconds.”

“We are not talking about a split-second decision that was made incorrectly,” Frey said. “There’s somewhere around 300 seconds in those five minutes, every one of which the officer could have turned back, every second of which he could have removed his knee from George Floyd’s neck. Every one of which he could have listened to community around him clearly saying that he needed to stop. Every one of which you heard George Floyd himself articulating the pain he was feeling, his inability to breathe, I can’t see coming to a different answer there and I think it’s incumbent on all of us to say that.”

On Wednesday, the Minnesota Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) Board said Chauvin’s actions do not reflect any training officers receive.

“The video is troubling and disturbing and it is the Board’s position that sanctity of life must be the guiding principle for all law enforcement officers,” the statement said. “We will work tirelessly to ensure that all Police Officers in Minnesota have the tools they need to prevent this type of tragedy in the future.”

Frey stopped short of detailing which specific charges he would like Chauvin to face, saying that, “If we want to see that charge, it would not be wise for me to provide the specifics of the form.”

The FBI is also assisting with the investigation, and while Frey said he believes the charging authority lies with Freeman, he added that to the extent federal authorities have jurisdiction as well, “Yeah, I’m calling on that too.”

The mayor said he had not seen any evidence that Floyd resisted arrest. He said wanted the body camera footage to be released “as soon as possible, while not compromising the investigation but, more importantly, the charge that I hope will come forward.”

Chauvin was captured on a bystander video kneeling on Floyd’s neck, while Thao stood by as witnesses pleaded with the officers to let Floyd up and to check his pulse. The encounter started when police detained Floyd Monday evening on suspicion of trying to pass a fake $20 bill at a convenience store.

The FBI launched an investigation Tuesday, as the Minneapolis Police Department fired the officers. The quick action didn’t prevent a large protest Tuesday evening that included tense confrontations with police, who responded with tear gas.

The case also drew attention Wednesday from the Minnesota Board of Peace Officer Standards and Training, which said in a statement that video from the case is “troubling and disturbing.”

“It is the Board’s position that sanctity of life must be the guiding principle for all law enforcement officers,” the board said. “We will work tirelessly to ensure that all Police Officers in Minnesota have the tools they need to prevent this type of tragedy in the future.

“As the licensing and regulatory body for peace officer licenses in the State of Minnesota, the Board has a responsibility to withhold final judgments as it pertains to issue of potential license sanctions, until the investigative process is complete and the facts are known. The Board will monitor the situation as it progresses and fulfill its mandate in a timely and professional manner.”

The Facebook video of the events before Floyd’s death has been viewed more than 1.1 million times on the Facebook page of the witness who shot it. Darnella Frazier told the Star Tribune she posted the video because “the world needed to see what I was seeing.”

Floyd’s death has drawn international outcry and calls for the prosecution of the officers involved.



 





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