MINNEAPOLIS – The mayor of Minneapolis called Wednesday for criminal charges to be filed against the white police officer seen on video kneeling against the neck of a handcuffed black man who complained that he could not breathe and died in police custody.
Based on the video, Mayor Jacob Frey said officer Derek Chauvin should be charged in the death of George Floyd. The footage recorded by a bystander shows Chauvin with his knee on Floyd's neck for several minutes as Floyd gasps for breath on the ground with his face against the pavement.
“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?” said Frey, who is white.
He later added: “I saw no threat. I saw nothing that would signal that this kind of force was necessary.”
The day after Floyd died, Chauvin and three other officers were fired – an act that did not stem the flood of anger that followed the widely seen video shot on Memorial Day outside a convenience store.
Protesters marched more than 2 miles Tuesday to the police precinct in that part of the city, with some damaging property and skirmishing with officers in riot gear who fired tear gas. A smaller protest was underway Wednesday afternoon outside the same precinct, with roughly a dozen officers behind barriers and a couple hundred protesters occasionally yelling at them and throwing objects.
Another demonstration unfolded on the street outside Chauvin's suburban home. An officer told protesters that Chauvin was not there. Red cans of paint were earlier spilled on his driveway, and someone wrote “murderer” in chalk at the end of his driveway. No one answered when an Associated Press reporter knocked on the door.
Many activists, citizens and celebrities called for criminal charges before Frey did. But Floyd's family and the community may have to wait months, if not years, before investigations are complete.
Floyd family attorney Ben Crump, a prominent civil rights lawyer, called for peaceful protests.
“We cannot sink to the level of our oppressors, and we must not endanger others during this pandemic,” he said in a statement. “We will demand and ultimately force lasting change by shining a light on treatment that is horrific and unacceptable and by winning justice.”
Gov. Tim Walz and Minnesota's two top black law enforcement officials – Attorney General Keith Ellison and Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington – promised a thorough, transparent investigation. But Walz and Ellison stopped short of endorsing the mayor's call for charging the officer, saying the legal process needs to play out.
“I understand the emotions are running high, and I think it's important for the mayor to channel the emotion of the people who he represents. But I think it is critical that we adhere very closely to the facts and the law and the normal process,” Ellison said.
The Hennepin County Attorney's Office, which would prosecute any state charges against the officer, issued a statement saying that Floyd's death had “outraged us and people across the country” and that the case “deserves the best we can give.”
The FBI was investigating whether officers willfully deprived Floyd of his civil rights.