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'Being Black In America Should Not Be A Death Sentence': Officials Respond To George Floyd's Death

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- His name was George Floyd. He can be seen on a video Darnella Frazier posted to Facebook, shouting "Please, please, please I can't breathe," as a Minneapolis police officer held him down for minutes, with his knee on Floyd's neck. Shortly thereafter, he was dead.

The scene of the confrontation with police in the Powderhorn neighborhood, 10 minutes south of downtown, is now a home for a memorial, and also the beginning of demonstrations.

Floyd was arrested around 8 p.m. Monday for forgery, a non-violent crime that implies he tried to used forged documents at a nearby deli. Officers say he resisted arrest before Frazier started filming.

The video posted to social media shows an encounter between Minneapolis police and Floyd outside Cup Foods. In the nine-minute video, an officer can be seen kneeling on Floyd's neck at the side of a squad car. Floyd can be heard groaning and repeatedly telling police he can't breathe.

"He's not even resisting arrest right now, bro," one bystander tells the officer and his partner. "You're f***ing stopping his breathing right now, you think that's cool?"

After about five minutes in the video, Floyd appears to go unconscious. The bystanders ask for someone to check his pulse. The officer does not lift his knee from Floyd's neck until medical personnel arrive a few minutes later and carry him to an ambulance. Police said he was taken to Hennepin Healthcare, where he was pronounced dead.

RELATED: Video Of Fatal Arrest Shows MPD Officer Kneeling On Man's Neck For At Least 7 Minutes

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey saw this entire video and called it "wrong on every level."

"For the better part of the night I've been trying to find the words to describe what happened. And all I keep coming back to is that he should not have died. What we saw was horrible, completely and utterly messed up. This man's life matters. He matters. He was someone's son," Frey said. "I believe what I saw and what I saw was wrong at every level. This does not reflect the values that Chief Arradondo has worked tirelessly to instill. It does not represent the training we've invested in or the measures we've taken to ensure accountability. Being black in America should not be a death sentence."

St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter also weighed in Tuesday morning.

Mayor Frey urged protesters to remain mindful of COVID-19 while demonstrating. At least one protest is planned for Tuesday night at the scene of the incident. It is being organized by a number of local activist groups, including the Minneapolis NAACP, Communities Against Police Brutality, and Black Lives Matter Twin Cities.

The two Minneapolis officers who responded to the incident are on "relieved of duty status," the police chief said. This is different from the typical administrative leave, but is still paid with no law enforcement duties.

The lawyer representing Floyd's family is civil rights attorney Ben Crump.

"We all watched the horrific death of George Floyd on video as witnesses begged the police officer to take him into the police car and get off his neck," Crump 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."

Lt. Bob Kroll, of the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis, said that the union intends to provide full support to the involved officers.

"Now is not the time rush to judgement and immediately condemn our officers. An in-depth investigation is underway. Our officers are fully cooperating. We must review all video. We must wait for the medical examiner's report," Kroll said. "Officers' actions and training protocol will be carefully examined after the officers have provided their statements. The Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis will provide full support to the involved officers. We ask that the community remain calm and let the investigation be completed in full."

Meanwhile, Minneapolis City Council vice president Andrea Jenkins called for immediate action.

"My heart is breaking for the tragic loss of life last night near 38th and Chicago. Our community continues to be traumatized again, and again and again. We must demand answers, I have spoken with the Mayor and have a call in to the chief. I vow to be as transparent and forthright with the community. We were already in the midst of developing a summer safety strategy for this neighborhood but immediate action is required now," Jenkins said. "Please stay strong sisters and brothers, these are trying times."

The FBI has been called to investigate Floyd's death. The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is also involved.

Minnesota's Attorney General Keith Ellison said his office intended to seek justice, adding "and we will find it."

"George Floyd mattered. Somebody loved him. His life was important. It had value. He lost it yesterday in an encounter with law enforcement that once again raises pain and trauma for so many people," Ellison said. "The issue of police-community relations has been a point of controversy and pain for the whole of American history. It involves centuries of trauma. In the past several years alone, almost every part of Minnesota has lived through a fatal encounter with law enforcement. George Floyd's death raises that trauma yet again for so many people. It is legitimate for community members to be outraged by George Floyd's death. During the COVID-19 pandemic, I strongly encourage everyone who wishes to exercise their First Amendment rights to protest to do so safely: use social distancing and wear a mask. It is an act of care for yourselves and your community to do so."

Minnesota Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith and Gov. Tim Walz also echoed Jenkins' call for immediate action.

"We are once again traumatized by the tragic scene of a black man pleading for his life at the hands of a white police officer. We cannot look away from this injustice and terrible loss of life," Smith said. "Mayor Frey and Chief Arradondo have called for an immediate federal investigation. That's the right thing to do. We must learn exactly what happened, secure justice, and hold the people involved accountable. It is in our power to end this pattern of abuse and death against black people. It's our moral responsibility."

Rep. Ilhan Omar, who represents the congressional district Floyd's death happened in, said: "It is sickening to watch this black man be killed while helplessly begging for help. Black lives matter isn't just a chant, it's a call for justice. It's a call for our humanity to be recognized. This must stop. There needs to be an immediate Department of Justice investigation into this."

Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman also said he was "shocked and saddened by what appeared in a recent video," and said his office was in consultation with the U.S. Attorney.

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