A man in Minneapolis died on Monday night after an encounter with police. Video circulating on social media purportedly shows the man being pinned face-down on the street by an officer who appears to be pressing his knee into the man’s neck.
Police have not confirmed the video’s authenticity, but Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said he believes what he saw in the clip. He called the officer’s actions “wrong at every level” during a news briefing Tuesday.
In the clip, the man, who is Black, is heard pleading with officers.
“Please man, I can’t breathe,” he says.
The man repeats the phrase again and again: “I cannot breathe. I cannot breathe.”
Within minutes, the man closes his eyes and stops speaking. The officer, who appears to be white, appears to keep his knee on the man’s neck, even as onlookers begin shouting for police to attend to him.
“Get off of him!” one woman is heard shouting.
“Bro, he’s not fucking moving!” another bystander shouts. “Get off of his neck!”
The Minneapolis Police Department said in a press release that officers arrived at the scene in response to a reported “forgery in progress.” The suspect, police said, was in a car and appeared to be under the influence. He “physically resisted” officers, police said.
“Officers were able to get the suspect into handcuffs and noted he appeared to be suffering medical distress,” the statement said, adding the officers called for an ambulance but the man died shortly after arriving at a hospital. Police did not release the man’s identity, but said they believed he was in his 40s.
The press release stated that no weapons were used during the encounter. It did not mention that an officer had pinned the man to the street and had put his knee on the man’s neck prior to his death.
The police department said an investigation was underway. The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and FBI would be included, police noted without elaboration. Neither agency immediately responded to HuffPost’s requests for comment.
Video recorded by officers’ body cameras, which were turned on during the encounter, is being reviewed as part of the investigation, police said.
The officers involved have been placed on paid administrative leave, police said. Their names haven’t been publicly released.
“He should not have died,” Mayor Frey said during the news briefing Tuesday. “What we saw was horrible, completely and utterly messed up. … Whatever the investigation reveals, it does not change the simple truth that he should be with us this morning.”
“Being Black in America should not be a death sentence,” Frey continued. “When you hear someone calling for help, you are supposed to help. This officer failed in the most basic human sense.”
A protest against police violence has been planned for Tuesday night at the intersection where the incident occurred. Frey said he supported the right of community members to express their anger, but encouraged protesters to social distance and wear masks to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Social media users noted similarities in the man’s death and that of Eric Garner, an unarmed Black man who died in 2014 after being placed in a chokehold by a New York City police officer.
“I can’t breathe,” Garner said repeatedly before he died.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.
Calling all HuffPost superfans!
Sign up for membership to become a founding member and help shape HuffPost’s next chapter