By BILL HUTCHINSON, ABC NEWS
(MINNEAPOLIS, Minn.) — The mayor of Minneapolis called on prosecutors Wednesday to file criminal charges against a white police officer seen in a viral video pressing his knee into the neck of an African American man who is repeatedly heard in the footage saying “I can’t breathe” before he died.
Mayor Jacob Frey said at a news conference that he has contacted the office of Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman to demand justice for George Floyd and his family.
“I’ve wrestled with, more than anything else over the last 36 hours, one fundamental question: Why is the man who killed George Floyd not in jail?” Frey said. “If you had done it, or I had done it, we would be behind bars right now. I cannot come up with a good answer to that question and so I’m calling upon Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman to act on the evidence before him. I’m calling on him to charge the arresting officer in this case.”
Frey’s comments came a day after protesters took to the streets of Minneapolis to demand justice for Floyd. The demonstrators clashed with police, who sprayed chemical irritants on them in an attempt to disperse the large crowd.
Floyd died shortly after he was apprehended by Minneapolis police on Monday. Video emerged on social media showing a police officer with his knee on Floyd’s neck as Floyd, who was handcuffed, begged for mercy.
“I can’t breathe, please, the knee in my neck,” Floyd is heard saying to the officer, identified as Officer Derek Chauvin, who had him pinned to the ground. “I can’t move … my neck … I’m through, I’m through.”
Officers Chauvin, Tou Thao, who is also seen in the video, and Thomas Lane and J. Alexander Kueng, who were also involved in the incident, were fired on Tuesday by Police Chief Medaria Arradondo.
Frey said he made his decision to asked that criminal charges be filed in the case based primarily on the video of the incident.
“There are events in our city that shape us. There are precedents and protocols sitting in the reserves of institutions just like this one that will give you about a thousand reasons not to do something, not to speak out, not to act so quickly,” Frey said. “We cannot turn a blind eye. It is on us as leaders to see this for what it is and call it what it is. George Floyd deserves justice, his family deserves justice, the black community deserves justice and our city deserves justice.”
While autopsy results determining the cause of Floyd’s death have not been released, Frey said that “what I can say with certainty based on what I saw, is that the individual, the officer who had his knee on the neck of George Floyd, should be charged.”
The mayor would not specify what charges he would like to see filed in the case.
“I do not want to get into the fundamentals of different classifications of murder. I do not want to get into the fundamentals of any one specific charge or any one individual,” he said. “I’m not going to weigh in on the evidence. I know there’s clearly more evidence to come, but I will say that based on what I saw in the video this is the decision that I am making, obviously not as a prosecutor.”
Freeman did not immediately respond to Frey’s request, but in a statement on Tuesday he said that the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and the FBI are investigating the case. He said he has assigned his “most veteran prosecutors” to assist in the investigation and that he was in consultation with the U.S. Attorney.
“At the end of the investigation, the findings will be presented to our office for consideration of prosecution. We promise a thorough, expedited review consistent with our ongoing commitment to justice,” Freeman said. “Every person is entitled to fairness; no person stands above the law.”
The Minneapolis Police Department said in a statement Monday that their officers initially confronted Floyd after being called to the scene “on a report of a forgery in progress.” The officers were advised that the suspect “appeared to be under the influence” and that he “physically resisted officers.”
The department said Floyd “appeared to be suffering medical distress” and that officers called an ambulance. Floyd was taken to the Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis, where he was pronounced dead. Police officials said no weapons were found on Floyd and none of the officers involved in the incident were injured.
Frey’s statements echoed those made by Floyd’s sister, Bridgett Floyd, during an interview Wednesday morning on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”
She said terminating the officers is “definitely not enough justice for me or my family.”
“They murdered my brother. They killed him,” Bridgett Floyd said. “Firing them is just not enough.”
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