Black Man Dies After Cop Encounter: 'I Can't Breathe'

Video circulates showing police officer with his knee on neck of black man who later died
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted May 26, 2020 10:00 AM CDT
Black Man Dies After Cop Encounter: 'I Can't Breathe'
Stock photo.   (Getty Images/MattGush)

A black man in Minneapolis is dead after an encounter with police over the holiday weekend, and a viral video showing that incident has "traumatized" the community and spurred demands for answers. The details:

  • The video: Per the Washington Post, the video was shot around 8pm Monday, which is when police say they arrived on the scene to look into an alleged "forgery in progress." The two cops involved say the unnamed man, thought to be in his 40s, resisted arrest when he was asked to exit his car. The video shows one officer with his knee on the back of the man's neck, with the man apparently gasping for air and repeatedly pleading, "I can't breathe." After some minutes elapse, the man appears unresponsive. "Bro, he's not f---ing moving!" one person in a crowd of spectators yells at the second officer, standing nearby. "Did they f---ing kill him?" a woman asks. Police say the man was taken by ambulance to Hennepin County Medical Center, where he died.

  • Who recorded the video: Darnella Frazier, the woman who caught the incident on camera, was on her way to visit with friends when she came across what was happening outside of a grocery store. "When I walked up, he was already on the ground," she says. The officer was "pinning him down by his neck and he was crying."
  • More from police: The Minneapolis Police Department says in a release that the officers were advised when they arrived on the scene that the man "appeared to be under the influence," and that after they got him into handcuffs, he "appeared to be suffering medical distress." The department also notes that the cops' bodycams were activated during the incident, the officers weren't injured, and that "at no time were weapons of any type used by anyone involved."
  • A walkback: After that initial statement, police rep John Elder noted that was based on preliminary info and "as we started digging into this and seeing more, we realized that the FBI needed to aid in this investigation," per the Star Tribune. He adds that the knee-on-neck move was not, in his opinion, a department-authorized chokehold.
  • Reaction: "It just reminds me of Eric Garner once again: a black man being accosted by police and pleading for his life saying he couldn't breathe," local activist Nekima Levy Armstrong says. "Whatever the man may have done should not have ended in a death sentence. What started as an alleged economic incident once again turned deadly for a black man."
  • Councilwoman's statement: "My heart is breaking for the tragic loss of life last night," says Andrea Jenkins, who represents the area where the incident took place, per KARE 11. "Our community continues to be traumatized again and again and again. We must demand answers."
  • Readying for a demonstration: CBS Minnesota reports that a protest is planned for Tuesday night at the scene of the incident, with Black Lives Matter Twin Cities, the Minneapolis NAACP, and Communities United Against Police Brutality all taking part. Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey is asking anyone planning on participating to maintain social distancing due to the pandemic, per the AP.
  • What happens next: The FBI will be joined by the Minnesota Criminal Bureau of Investigation in its probe into the case. The officers involved have been placed on paid administrative leave, and their bodycam footage has been handed over to the BCA.
  • The PD's history: This isn't the police force's first controversial incident involving the death of a citizen. The AP notes that in 2015, Jamar Clark, an unarmed 25-year-old black man, was shot dead by two white officers; the city eventually settled with his family for $200,000. Meanwhile, in 2017, Justine Damond, a white Australian woman, was shot and killed by a black Minneapolis cop who was responding to her 911 call. He was convicted of manslaughter and murder and is serving a 12-year prison sentence.
(Read more Minneapolis stories.)

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