The Minnesota Catholic Conference on Tuesday called the death of a black man while he was in police custody a “tragedy,” and welcomed an investigation.
A video circulated online on Tuesday of a May 25 arrest in Minneapolis. In the video an officer with the Minneapolis Police Department can be seen kneeling on the neck of a man laying on the street as he is taken into custody. The man was later identified as George Floyd.
“I cannot breathe,” Floyd said multiple times, groaning as the knee of a police officer was on his neck. A second police officer stood by watching.
The video appears to skip several minutes to a later shot, where Floyd’s eyes appear closed and onlookers exclaim that he was not moving and shouted at the officers to “get off of his neck.”
According to the Minneapolis Police Department’s account of the arrest, officers had handcuffed Floyd and “noted he appeared to be suffering medical distress.” They called for an ambulance, and Floyd was taken to Hennepin County Medical Center “where he died a short time later.”
The state’s Catholic conference, which speaks on behalf of the bishops of Minnesota’s six dioceses, called Floyd’s death “a tragedy” and welcomed an investigation.
“This is a tragedy. It is good that state and federal investigators are already looking into the incident to determine what happened,” stated Jason Adkins of the Minnesota Catholic Conference.
“People need to feel safe in their communities and have trust in law enforcement, who should exercise their power in a spirit of service,” Adkins said. “If there was misconduct, hopefully justice will be done.”
According to the police department, officers had initially responded to a “forgery in progress” on the 3700 block of Chicago Avenue South.
“Officers were advised that the suspect was sitting on top of a blue car and appeared to be under the influence,” the department said.
When officers arrived on the scene, the department said that Floyd was ordered “to step from his car,” and physically resisted arrest once he got out of his car; the officers handcuffed him and then noted “he appeared to be suffering medical distress.”
Both the FBI and the state’s Bureau of Criminal Apprehension will be investigating the incident.
Minneapolis police authorities announced Tuesday afternoon that four officers were fired in response to the incident. There is not yet indication of whether the officers could face charges.
The mayor of St. Paul called the video “one of the most vile and heartbreaking images I’ve ever seen,” and that both officers “must be held fully accountable. This must stop now.”