George Floyd Told Officers 'I Can’t Breathe' More than 20 Times Before He Died, Transcript Reveals
The new transcript drawn from police body cam footage provides chilling detail about George Floyd's final minutes in police custody
A chilling new transcript gives insight into George Floyd's distress during the more than eight minutes he lay pinned to the ground with a Minneapolis police officer's knee pressed to his neck, restricting Floyd's oxygen as he died during an arrest for allegedly spending a counterfeit $20 bill.
"I can't breathe" — among Floyd's last words, as captured on widely seen bystander video — has become a rallying cry for those seeking justice in his name across the country. Floyd said that phrase more than 20 times, the new transcript reveals, while also calling out to his children and his deceased mother during the May 25 incident, according to the document made public Wednesday in the case against one of four officers charged in connection with Floyd's death.
"They're going to kill me. They're going to kill me, man," Floyd, 46, said in one of his last utterances before he passed out, according to the transcript drawn from police body camera footage.
"Takes a heck of a lot of oxygen to say that," responds Derek Chauvin, the officer with his knee on Floyd's neck, who is facing the most serious criminal charge of second-degree unintentional murder.
"Come on, man," Floyd says. "I cannot breathe. I cannot breathe."
"Tough guy. Tough guy, huh?," says an unidentified male voice.
"They're going to kill me," Floyd repeats. "They're going to kill me. I can't breathe."
Moments later, in his last transcribed words, he says, "Please, sir. Please."
And then a final: "Please."
About a minute later, Thomas Lane, one of three other officers working with Chauvin to hold Floyd down, says, "I think [he's] passing out."
"You guys all right, though?," Chauvin asks.
"Good so far?," says another of the officers, J. Alexander Kueng.
"My knee might be a little scratched," answers Lane, "but I'll survive."
The transcript is part of the court paperwork filed by Lane, 37, seeking to have a judge dismiss charges against him of aiding and abetting — without intent — second-degree murder, and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter with culpable negligence creating unreasonable risk, reports The New York Times.
Lane and two other officers -- Kueng, 26, and Tou Thao, 34 -- charged with similar crimes all have been released from Hennepin County jail after posting bond.
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Chauvin, 44, initially was charged with third-degree murder but had his charges upgraded to include second-degree unintentional murder and manslaughter, and remains jailed with his bail set at $1.25 million.
None of the former officers has entered a plea. All four appeared in court June 29 when they all waived their right to a speedy trial, which is scheduled to begin in the spring, the Times reported.
Lawyers for all four of the officers objected to "multiple inappropriate public comments" they say were made by local officials that could influence jurors who might be called upon to judge the officers' conduct, according to a motion urging court proceedings to be broadcast. Otherwise, the attorneys have declined to comment to the media about the case.
Floyd's death sparked ongoing protests over systemic racism and police brutality.
"Mr. Floyd died in our hands and so I see that as being complicit," Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo, who fired the officers in the wake of Floyd's death, told CNN on May 31 about the three officers who he said did not step up to halt Chauvin's actions. "Silence and inaction — you're complicit. You're complicit. If there were one solitary voice that would have intervened ... that's what I would have hoped for."
Chauvin Said, 'Stop Talking, Stop Yelling'
The new transcript shows Floyd, as he's being detained, initially pleading with the officers, "Please, don't shoot me," as they approach a car in which he was sitting, before Lane says to another person that officers were called because "someone passed a fake bill," and then asking Floyd, "Are you on something right now?"
Floyd says "no, nothing," and then, "I'm scared, man," as the officers move him to a patrol car, prompting Floyd to tell them, "Please, man. Don't leave me by myself man, please. I'm just claustrophobic, that's it."
Amid repeated objections to being placed in the patrol car -- and after telling the officers that he'd recently recovered from COVID -- Floyd first indicates his panicked distress, saying "I can't breathe." Kueng says he's under arrest for forgery and Floyd is placed on the ground.
It's unclear from the transcript at what point Chauvin places his knee to Floyd's neck as a restraint. "Mama, mama, mama, mama," Floyd says.
Told by Chauvin that he's going to jail, Floyd says, "I can't believe this, man. Mom I love you. I love you."
Then: "Tell my kids I love them. I'm dead."
Later he says: "I can't breathe or nothing, man. This cold-blooded, man. Ah-ah! Ah-ah! Ah-ah!"
Chauvin: "You're doing a lot of talking, man."
Floyd: "Mama, I love you. I can't do nothing."
Keung then says: "EMS is on their way."
More moments pass. "Please man," Floyd says.
"Relax!," says Thao.
"I can't breathe," says Floyd.
"You're fine, you're talking fine," says Keung.
"You're talking. Deep breath," says Lane.
"I can't breathe. I can't breathe. Ah! I'll probably die this way," says Floyd.
"Relax," repeats Thao.
At one point Floyd says, "You're going to kill me, man."
"Then stop talking, stop yelling," Chauvin says, "it takes a heck of a lot of oxygen to talk."
After bystanders tell the officers that it appears Floyd is no longer responsive, Keung says he can't detect a pulse, before paramedics arrive to take Floyd away.
To help combat systemic racism, consider learning from or donating to these organizations:
- Campaign Zero (joincampaignzero.org) which works to end police brutality in America through research-proven strategies.
- ColorofChange.org works to make the government more responsive to racial disparities.
- National Cares Mentoring Movement (caresmentoring.org) provides social and academic support to help Black youth succeed in college and beyond.