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Minneapolis Crowd Protests Black Man's Death While In Police Custody

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

There were protesters clashing with police and stopping traffic in Minneapolis last night; this after the death of George Floyd.

(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)

GREENE: Four police officers have now been fired. But outrage spilled into the streets after Floyd, a black man, died in police custody on Monday night. There was video widely shared on social media showing a police officer using his knee to pin Floyd's neck to the ground for several minutes. Floyd was outside a small grocery store after police responded to a report of a, quote, "forgery" in progress.

I want to bring in Tim Nelson, who's been covering this from Minnesota Public Radio. And just to warn you, we are going to play some of the disturbing audio of this man's plea - this man pleading for his life. Tim, can you just tell us the circumstances here and what led to Floyd's death?

TIM NELSON, BYLINE: Well, like you said, police were initially called to report at a neighborhood grocery store about someone actually trying to pay with a counterfeit bill. This was about 8 o'clock on Monday night. Officers showed up. They found George Floyd - he's 46 years old, lives in a nearby suburb - and he was in an SUV across the street.

Video shows officers pulling him out of the vehicle and then walking him over to the sidewalk. Now, a few minutes later, he was on the ground, face down, beside a police vehicle, wearing handcuffs at that point. That's where the video picks up, showing police on top of him, including - as you said - a white officer with a knee on Floyd's neck and his back. Part of this was videotaped, and it's hard to listen to. But you can hear in the audio that Floyd is pleading for someone to help him and gasping for air.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

GEORGE FLOYD: I can't breathe, officer.

(CROSSTALK)

FLOYD: They going to kill me. They going to kill me.

NELSON: Tragically, those were his last words. The video shows Floyd losing consciousness, then limp and unresponsive when paramedics took him away.

GREENE: I mean, so many of us have seen and listened to that now. It's horrific. I mean, who was recording it? Who was there getting this footage?

NELSON: Well, it was actually being streamed live on Facebook by just a passerby, a woman named Darnella Frazier. She was standing on the sidewalk nearby. There are other videos, though, including one from the other side of the street, showing what appears to be two officers on Floyd's back. But, you know, this struggle right by the back door of a squad car drew a crowd actually pleading for this to stop. I even talked to one eyewitness who heard Floyd crying out for help as he drove by, and he stopped to see what was going on.

GREENE: All right, so take us through what the response has been so far.

NELSON: Well, Police Chief Medaria Arradondo has fired the four officers involved in this, and Mayor Jacob Frey has agreed. The reaction in the community has been very swift. Civil rights leaders gathered at City Hall yesterday to express their anger and their outrage. Steve Belton is president of the Urban League of the Twin Cities. That's a small nonprofit agency that mostly serves the black community in the Twin Cities.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

STEVE BELTON: What we witnessed today was-state sponsored murder, a state-sponsored execution. And what we await to see is whether it's going to become state-sanctioned execution. It'll be sanctioned if nothing is done.

NELSON: Now, state authorities are investigating, and county attorney Mike Freeman says he'll consider criminal charges when, eventually, the evidence comes to his office.

GREENE: Is there some history here with the Minneapolis police?

NELSON: Yeah, there's a couple of cases. There was the shooting of an unarmed black man, Jamar Clark, about five years ago. And then, of course, the high-profile case of Justine Ruszczyk. Just last year, a Minneapolis police officer was convicted of murder after she called 911 and went out to meet officers that were responding and was shot and killed. There was also a case in 2010, when officers were restraining a man in a downtown YMCA, and he died. The city paid out a $3 million settlement in that case.

GREENE: And so what's next? We are looking for criminal charges possibly to come here, right?

NELSON: Well, the FBI has joined the case, and there's also likely to be some legal action. Civil rights attorney Ben Crump has joined the case. And we're waiting to see body camera video from the officers at the scene.

GREENE: Tim Nelson from Minnesota Public Radio. Tim, thank you.

NELSON: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Hey, thanks for reading.
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