It was a routine police call for a run-of-the-mill crime — someone passing a bogus $20 bill at a deli.
But the ensuing death of unarmed black man George Floyd while in the custody of Minneapolis cops, and the resulting riots, have once again forced a divided nation into a bitter self-reckoning.
The cops involved were axed and President Trump himself has pledged an expedient investigation by federal law enforcement — but that has done little to quell searing outrage that’s lit up social media, left buildings at ground zero, Minneapolis literally torched and necessitated the Minnesota National Guard.
It all started when restaurant bouncer and aspiring commercial driver George Floyd, 46, tried to buy groceries.
Floyd — a Houston native who had previous scrapes with the law and moved to the Twin Cities to start fresh about six years ago — went to the Cup Foods on Chicago Avenue South around 8 p.m. to for the food run.
That’s around the time that cops got a call from a store clerk that there was a “forgery in progress” — someone was trying to pay for groceries with a counterfeit $20 bill, a non-violent offense.
Surveillance footage from a nearby restaurant shows police arriving at the scene shortly after 8 p.m. and approaching a black minivan where Floyd is sitting with two other people.
Two officers walk up to the vehicle, its passenger-side door already open, and one shines a flashlight inside.
The second officer approaches Floyd and tells him to get out of the car, prompting a brief struggle before Floyd exits the vehicle. Meanwhile, the passenger and a woman sitting in the back seat are seen getting out of the minivan.
Moments later Floyd is seen, hands cuffed behind his back, being led to the side of a building by the two cops.
Floyd, who did five years in a Texas prison on a 2009 plea deal related to an armed robbery charge, appears to be speaking to the officers but does not appear to resist.
A second police vehicle then arrives at the scene, as Floyd is escorted across the street to a waiting patrol car.
One surveillance video from across the street shows him stumbling and falling as the two officers lead him to a waiting squad car, according to footage obtained by KMSP-TV.
Body cam video taken by a responding Minneapolis Park Police officer shows two other officers interviewing witnesses near the scene.
The video is heavily redacted and largely muted, but it appears the two individuals being questioned were the man and the woman who were in the car with Floyd.
What happens next is still uncertain — but the next time Floyd is seen on video is a viral clip shot by bystander Darnella Frazier, which shows Floyd already pinned down by Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin, a white cop seen pressing his knee into the back of Floyd’s neck while he lies face-down in handcuffs.
Chauvin had been the subject of 10 prior conduct complaints over his 19 years on the force but had never faced disciplinary action.
In the span of nearly four minutes, Floyd can be heard telling police at least a dozen times that he couldn’t breathe and asking Chauvin to take his knee off of his neck — as bystanders, including the grocery clerk who initially called 911, plead with the officers to let Floyd get up.
“Please, I can’t breathe,” he said.
“Get up, get in the car,” one of the cops is heard saying while Floyd remains pinned down by Chauvin.
“I will, I can’t move,” Floyd responds.
He then stops moving altogether.
Police called EMTs around 8:30 p.m. and they arrived on the scene in six minutes to find an unconscious and unresponsive Floyd, according to Hennepin County Healthcare EMS Chief Marty Scheerer.
Paramedics and police eventually flipped Floyd over while he was still cuffed, placed him on a gurney and into an ambulance, where a responder released his hands.
Their decision to “load and go,” rather than triage Floyd on the spot, was likely based on their race against time, Scheerer said, adding that responders were likely unaware of how severe the situation had become.
Despite reportedly spending an hour trying to revive Floyd, he was pronounced dead at a local hospital at 9:25 p.m.
Police initially claimed that he “suffered a medical episode while struggling with officers,” but Frazier’s video soon put the lie to that claim.
“They killed him right in front of Cup Foods over south on 38th and Chicago,” the 17-year-old later said on Facebook. “No type of sympathy.”
The following day, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, visibly enraged by footage of the incident, announced at a press conference with Police Chief Maderia Arradondo that all four officers involved had been fired.
“Four responding MPD officers involved in the death of George Floyd have been terminated,” Frey said on Twitter. “This is the right call.”
In a separate tweet Tuesday, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz called the incident “sickening.”
“The lack of humanity in this disturbing video is sickening,” Walz wrote. “We will get answers and seek justice.”
Frey lashed out again Wednesday, calling on Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman to arrest Chauvin, something a spokesman said Freeman’s office is “discussing.”
Meanwhile, the FBI announced that it would investigate the incident in a joint probe with state authorities. And Trump on Wednesday pledged that the feds would conduct an “expedited” investigation.
“At my request, the FBI and the Department of Justice are already well into an investigation,” he tweeted.
On Thursday, Frey followed up by arguing that Floyd “would be alive today if he were white.”
Angry protestors nonetheless took to the streets of Minneapolis, targeting local stores and a police precinct in the city.
Outrage over the case spilled over into the sports world, with NBA stars LeBron James and Steph Curry taking to social media to express anger over Floyd’s death.
James posted side-by-side images on Instagram of Chauvin pinning Floyd and former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick kneeling during the national anthem before a San Francisco 49ers game — his high-profile protest against police brutality against black Americans.
“This…. Is Why,” the post said in explaining Kap’s protest.
Former NBA star Stephen Jackson, a friend of Lloyd’s thanks to their striking physical similarities, said he was devastated by his death.
“I jumped up, screamed, scared my daughter — almost broke my hand punching stuff because I was so mad,” the 42-year-old former Net told “NBC’s Today.” “It just destroyed me, and I haven’t been the same since I seen it.”
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo also chimed in during his daily coronavirus press conference on Thursday, calling Floyd’s death “frightening.”
“If I was a prosecutor I would look at that case from the first moment,” Cuomo, a former state attorney general and Manhattan prosecutor. “There is a criminal case there.”
Floyd’s brother, Philonise Floyd, provided more personal commentary on the case on CNN Thursday when asked about the continuing protests.
“I want everybody to be peaceful right now, but people are torn and hurt because they’re tired of seeing black men die, constantly, over and over again,” he said.
“And I understand, and I see why a lot of people doing a lot of different things around the world. I don’t want them to lash out like this,” he added. “But I can’t stop people right now, because they have pain. They have the same pain I feel.”
“I want everything to be peaceful, but I can’t make everybody be peaceful.”
Additional reporting by Yaron Steinbuch and Tamar Lapin, with Post wires
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