MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – – The FBI has been called to investigate after a man died Monday night in south Minneapolis after an encounter with Minneapolis police.
In a statement early Tuesday, police described what happened as a medical incident. However, a video posted on social media shows an officer kneeing a man’s neck to the ground for several minutes. Before he goes unconscious, the man, who is black, repeatedly tells officers he can’t breathe.
At a press conference Tuesday morning, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey alluded to the graphic footage, saying: “I believe what I saw, and what I saw was wrong at every level.”
The mayor added: “Being black in America should not be a death sentence.”
According to police, officers responded shortly after 8 p.m. Monday to the 3700 block of Chicago Avenue South, where a man was reportedly trying to use forged documents at Cup Foods.
At the scene, police found the man, who appeared to be in his 40s and intoxicated, in a blue car. Officers told him to get out. Their body cameras were running.
“After he got out, he physically resisted officers,” police spokesman John Elder told reporters early Tuesday. “Officers were able to get the suspect into handcuffs and officers noticed that the man was going into medical distress.”
An ambulance brought the man to Hennepin County Medical Center, where he died shortly after. His name has not been released.
The video posted to social media shows an encounter between Minneapolis police and a man outside Cup Foods. In the nine-minute video, an officer can be seen kneeing a man to the pavement at the side of a squad car. The man can be heard groaning and repeatedly telling police he can’t breathe.
“He’s not even resisting arrest right now, bro,” one bystander tells the officer and his partner. “You’re f—ing stopping his breathing right now, you think that’s cool?”
After about five minutes, the man appears to go unconscious. The bystanders ask for someone to check his pulse. The officer does not lift his knee from the man’s neck until medical personnel arrive and carry him away.
At the Tuesday morning press conference with the mayor, Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo did not address the video specifically, but did say that he received information from the community that prompted him to reach out to the FBI. The investigation is now being led by federal authorities. The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is also involved.
The two Minneapolis officers are on “relieved of duty status,” the police chief said. This is different from the typical administrative leave, but is still paid with no law enforcement duties.
At least one protest is planned for Tuesday night at the scene of the incident. It is being organized by a number of local activist groups, including the Minneapolis NAACP, Communities Against Police Brutality, and Black Lives Matter Twin Cities.
At the Tuesday morning press conference, the mayor urged protesters to remain mindful of COVID-19 while demonstrating. It was noted that the two officers on the social media video were not wearing face masks.
The mayor also expressed his condolences to the man’s family and the black community.
“He should not have died,” Frey said.