Public Safety

Cedar Rapids police chief criticizes Minneapolis officers' actions in death of George Floyd

People leave flowers at a makeshift memorial, Wednesday, May 27, 2020, in Minneapolis, near the site where George Floyd,
People leave flowers at a makeshift memorial, Wednesday, May 27, 2020, in Minneapolis, near the site where George Floyd, a black man who was taken into police custody on Monday and later died. (Jerry Holt/Star Tribune via AP)
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As violent protests following the death of a black man in police custody continue to rage in Minnesota, Cedar Rapids Police Chief Wayne Jerman criticized the actions of the four Minneapolis officers involved in the arrest.

In a statement posted Thursday morning on the police department’s Facebook page, Jerman called the death of 46-year-old George Floyd “disturbing,” adding that “all individuals should be treated with dignity and respect.”

“The video footage that I have seen is disturbing and is inconsistent with both training and protocols of a law enforcement officer,” he said.

“The trust of the community is something that we can never take for granted, and incidents like this, regardless of where they occur, erode the trust that so many honorable men and women have worked very hard to build and cultivate. We remain committed to maintaining lasting, positive and trusting relationships with our community.”

Floyd, who worked in security at a restaurant, died Monday night. Video taken by a bystander surfaced the following day. It showed an officer kneeling on the handcuffed man’s neck, even after he pleaded that he could not breathe and stopped moving. The four officers involved in the arrest were fired hours after the video went viral.

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey announced the firings on Twitter, saying, “This is the right call.”

Floyd’s death brought swift comparisons to the case of Eric Garner, an unarmed black man who died in 2014 in New York after he was placed in a chokehold by police and pleaded for his life, saying he could not breathe.

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In a post on his Facebook page, Frey apologized Tuesday to the black community for the officers’ conduct in Floyd’s arrest.

“Being Black in America should not be a death sentence,” he said. “For five minutes, we watched a white officer press his knee into a Black man’s neck. Five minutes. When you hear someone calling for help, you’re supposed to help. This officer failed in the most basic, human sense,” Frey posted

Police said the Floyd matched the description of a suspect in a forgery case at a grocery store, and that he resisted arrest.

The bystander video starts with the man on the ground. An unidentified officer is kneeling on his neck, ignoring his pleas. “Please, please, please, I can’t breathe. Please, man,” said Floyd, who has his face against the pavement.

The moments leading up to that scene were not recorded.

Floyd, still on the ground, also moans. One of the officers tells him to “relax,” while Floyd calls for his mother and says: “My stomach hurts, my neck hurts, everything hurts ... I can’t breathe.”

As bystanders shout their concern, one officer says, “He’s talking, so he’s breathing.”

But Floyd stops talking and slowly becomes motionless under the officer’s restraint. The officer does not remove his knee until the man is loaded onto a gurney by paramedics.

Violent protests erupted in the city following the release of the video. According to the Associated Press, angry crowds looted stores, set fires and left a path of damage that stretched for miles, prompting the mayor to ask the governor to activate the National Guard.

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Protests also spread to other U.S. cities. In California, hundreds of people protesting Floyd’s death blocked a Los Angeles freeway and shattered windows of California Highway Patrol cruisers. Memphis police blocked a main thoroughfare after a racially mixed group of protesters gathered outside a police precinct.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI in Minneapolis told the AP on Thursday they were conducting “a robust criminal investigation” into Floyd’s death and were making the case a priority.

Frey pleaded for calm Thursday, tweeting, “Please, Minneapolis, we cannot let tragedy beget more tragedy.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Comments: (319) 398-8238; kat.russell@thegazette.com

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