Minn. Prosecutor Decries 'Senseless' Death at Hands of Police But Urges Patience with Investigation
"We have to do this right," cautioned Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman during a Thursday press conference
With calls growing for an arrest after the death of George Floyd, including from Minneapolis' mayor, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman decried the Monday killing at the hands of police as "senseless" before urging patience regarding the investigation.
"We're going to investigate [Floyd's death] as expeditiously, as thoroughly and completely as justice demands," Freeman said during a press conference Thursday. "Sometimes, that takes a little time and we ask people to be patient. We have to do this right."
Freeman said his heart is with Floyd's grieving relatives, and said his office has historically been transparent in how it handles police brutality cases.
Freeman acknowledged his horror at the nine-minute viral video posted to social media that captured Floyd's killing.
"I will say this, that this video is graphic, and horrific and terrible, and no person should do that," he said, referring to the footage which shows a white officer — later identified as Derek Chauvin — with his knee on the back of Floyd's neck as Floyd struggles for breath and pleads for it to stop.
Floyd, who was unarmed, was handcuffed and lying on his stomach next to a Minneapolis patrol car.
Three officers held Floyd down, with Chauvin placing his full weight on Floyd's neck with his left knee.
Floyd can be heard in the video groaning in pain while bystanders plead with Chauvin to be more gentle. Throughout the clip, he repeatedly asks for help. He tells the officers that he cannot breathe and says that "everything hurts." The video continued until Floyd was visibly still.
The Minneapolis Police Department alleged in a media statement Floyd was "under the influence," and that police were responding to a report of forgery.
The statement states: "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. Officers called for an ambulance. He was transported to Hennepin County Medical Center by ambulance where he died a short time later."
But many lawmakers in Minnesota and others have questioned the police account, pointing out that no video evidence shows Floyd resisting. Four police officers present at the scene were fired Tuesday.
According to Freeman, he needs to review all of the evidence before assessing whether to bring charges.
Noting he had evidence that support charges, Freeman said there "is other evidence that does not support a criminal charge. We need to weigh through all of that evidence to come through with a meaningful determination, and we are doing the best of our ability."
After the press conference, Freeman's office issued a statement, clarifying his earlier comments.
"To clarify, County Attorney Freeman was saying that it is critical to review all the evidence because at the time of trial, invariably, all that information will be used," reads the statement. "Evidence not favorable to our case needs to be carefully examined to understand the full picture of what actually happened."
The attorney's office added that this is how all cases are handled.
"This statement does not indicate in any way the horror that we all feel when viewing the video. As in any case, it is simply a matter of adequately preparing for trial," the statement concludes.
The FBI also looking into Floyd's death, to see if the actions of the former Minneapolis police officers violated federal law.
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"It is a violation of federal law for an individual acting under color of law to willfully deprive another person of any right protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States," reads a statement from the Department of Justice.
Protests, some of which have turned violent, have taken place across the nation following Floyd's death.
On Wednesday, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said Chauvin needs to be criminally charged, and added Floyd would likely still be alive if he were not black.