What we know about George Floyd, and his death

Floyd died after being handcuffed and pinned to the ground by an officer's knee, in an episode that was recorded on video by a bystander, inciting condemnation and protests

By The New York Times
Published: May 28, 2020

george floyd_minneapolis_bgA protester holds a sign, showing an image from the video of George Floyd's arrest, outside the Third Precinct Police Station on May 27, 2020 in Minneapolis,Minnesota. Image: Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

George Floyd, a 46-year-old African American man, died on Monday after being handcuffed and pinned to the ground by a police officer’s knee, in an incident that was recorded on video and that incited large protests in Minneapolis.

The explosive footage, recorded by a bystander and shared widely on social media early Tuesday, led to community outrage, an FBI civil rights investigation and the firing of the officer and three colleagues who were also at the scene.

On Wednesday, the Minneapolis Police Department identified the fired officers as Derek Chauvin, Thomas Lane, Tou Thao and J. Alexander Kueng.

Floyd’s relatives have said that the officers should be charged with murder. “They treated him worse than they treat animals,” Philonise Floyd, Floyd’s brother, said on CNN. “They took a life — they deserve life.”

Mayor Jacob Frey of Minneapolis was quick to condemn the officers’ actions, and on Wednesday, he called on prosecutors to file charges against the officer who had his knee on Floyd’s neck.

“I want to see a charge take place,” Frey said at a news conference, without specifying what charge he thought was warranted. “I want to see justice for George Floyd.”

Rep. Ilhan Omar, a Democrat whose congressional district includes Minneapolis, tweeted on Wednesday that the officer should be charged with murder.

— Floyd grew up in Houston, and was a high school sports star.

Floyd lived in St. Louis Park, a Minneapolis suburb. He was pronounced dead at 9:25 p.m. Monday at Hennepin County Medical Center, according to the medical examiner.

He grew up in Houston, in a black neighborhood south of downtown known as the 3rd Ward. He was raised in a house with his siblings and two cousins, Shareeduh Tate and Tera Brown. Their mothers were sisters, Tate said.

A reporter for a Houston television station posted a video clip on Twitter of Floyd scoring a touchdown at a high school football game nearly 30 years ago. He was a tight end for the Jack Yates High School team, and the clip shows Floyd leaping to catch a pass in the end zone during a 1992 game at Delmar Stadium in Houston.

Floyd graduated from Yates High in 1993, the Houston school district confirmed on Wednesday.

Cyril N. White, 45, said he knew Floyd when they were both star high school athletes playing basketball. Both received scholarships to play in college, with Floyd going to a community college in Florida, White said.

After college, Floyd was one of the first players recruited by White when he set up a club team to play exhibition matches against college teams around Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana, and later in China, although by that time Floyd had left the team.

Floyd, known as “Big Floyd” to his teammates, given his 6-foot-7-inch height and hefty build, played power forward. He never got into a fight or received so much as a technical foul, White recalled.

“Gentle giant, gentle giant,” he said. “He was a natural comedian, a life-of-the-party type guy, real easy going.”

The club team, To God Be The Glory Sports, was not a church group, but members prayed together, and Floyd participated, White said. Floyd left after two years, saying he needed to work to take care of his new daughter.

White lamented how his friend had died. “They dehumanized him and treated him like a piece of garbage that was expendable. That is the worst.”

— He worked at a restaurant in Minneapolis and rented from the owner.

Tate said her cousin moved to Minneapolis four or five years ago, and Brown said he talked about the city as a welcoming place.

“He was happy there. He had made friends and had talked about training to become a truck driver,” said Brown, 48, an accounting manager. “He came home for his mother’s funeral two years ago, and he told me he had decided to stay.”

Jovanni Thunstrom, the owner of Conga Latin Bistro in Minneapolis, said he employed Floyd as a bouncer at the restaurant and was also his landlord.

“No one had nothing bad to say about him,” Thunstrom said. “They all are shocked he’s dead. He never caused a fight or was rude to people.”

Thunstrom said Floyd paid his rent last week and told him that he was looking for a new job because Conga Latin Bistro has been closed to on-site dining since March because of the coronavirus. “I lost a friend,” Thunstrom said.

White, his former teammate, said that after Floyd moved to Minneapolis, they would talk on the phone a few times a year, catching up on each other’s news and talking about old friends.

Their last contact was a couple months before the coronavirus outbreak, White said. “He was all smiles. He did not give any signs about any problems at all.”

— The original police report said Floyd had resisted arrest.

The arrest of Floyd took place on Monday evening. The Minneapolis Police Department said in a statement that officers had responded to a call about a man suspected of forgery. Police said the man was found sitting on top of a blue car and “appeared to be under the influence.”

“He was ordered to step from his car,” the department’s statement said. “After he got out, he physically resisted officers. Officers were able to get the suspect into handcuffs and noted he appeared to be suffering medical distress.”

The statement said that officers had called for an ambulance.

On Tuesday morning, without referring to the video recorded by a bystander, the police updated a statement, titled “Man Dies After Medical Incident During Police Interaction,” saying that additional information had “been made available” and that the FBI was joining the investigation.

— The video shows the aftermath of the arrest, with Floyd pleading that he can’t breathe.

The bystander video shows a white Minneapolis police officer pressing his knee into a black man’s neck during an arrest, as the man repeatedly says, “I can’t breathe,” and, “Please, I can’t breathe.”

The video recorded in Minneapolis on Monday shows that after a few minutes, the man, lying face down in the street with his hands cuffed behind his back, becomes silent and motionless; the officer continues to pin the man to the pavement with his knee.

Frey, the Minneapolis mayor, said Tuesday that he did not know how the initial police statement, describing a “medical incident,” had come to be written, but he said he wanted to be “absolutely as transparent as possible.”

“It’s the kind of thing where you don’t hide from the truth, you lean into it, because our city is going to be better off for it, no matter how ugly, awful it is,” he said. “If it points out the institutional racism that we are still working through right now, well, good — it means that we’ve got a lot of work to go.”

— Four officers have been fired, and the FBI is investigating.

On Tuesday afternoon, Frey tweeted that four officers involved in the case had been terminated. “This is the right call,” he said.

The Police Department’s statement said that no weapons had been used and that the officers’ body cameras were recording. Frey said at a news conference Tuesday that he had seen the video “taken and posted by a civilian” but not the body camera footage.

He said he had asked the FBI to investigate, and in a statement posted to Twitter said, “Being black in America should not be a death sentence. For five minutes, we watched a white officer press his knee into a black man’s neck. Five minutes.”

— Floyd’s relatives are pushing for murder charges.

Ben Crump, a civil rights lawyer representing Floyd’s family members, said they want to see murder charges filed against the police officers.

“The plan is to make sure these officers are charged with the murder of George Floyd,” Crump said. “When you really think about it, it was nine minutes that he begged for his life while this officer had his knee in his throat, had his knee in his neck.”

Tate, Floyd’s cousin in Houston, agreed that the officers should face serious consequences.

“I would like to see the officers charged with murder and convicted,” she said. “I would not be happy with anything less. In my mind, they executed him.”

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©2019 New York Times News Service

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