HOUSTON — The family of a man who died in Minneapolis police custody is calling for action after viewing a video that appears to show George Floyd begging for help.
In an interview shared on TMX.news, George Floyd's cousins, Shareeduh Tate and Tera Brown, said the termination of four officers who were involved is a start but it's "not enough."
"I’m glad that it didn’t take forever for them to see what everybody else could clearly see took place, and that’s that they murdered our cousin," Tate said.
George Floyd died while in police custody on Monday night. A video captured by a community journalist appears to show the fatal encounter, in which a Minneapolis police officer can be seen with his knee on Floyd's neck as Floyd is heard saying repeatedly, "I can't breathe."
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey announced on Tuesday that four officers involved in the incident have been terminated. The FBI and the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) are both investigating.
The Minneapolis Police Department issued a statement early Tuesday morning, saying that Floyd resisted officers and then "appeared to be suffering medical distress" after he was put in handcuffs.
Tate said that she saw the video before she knew it was her cousin who had died.
"I just remember thinking how devastating this would be for the family who had lost a family member like this, and that everybody could clearly see it, and then maybe five minutes after that I got the phone call letting me know that it was actually my cousin," she said.
After that, Tate said she could not watch the video again.
"I tried to but when it first played and I could hear his voice, I didn’t need to see anymore," she said. "The first time that I heard him say 'I can’t breathe,' it was just more than I could take."
Tera Brown said Floyd was "the cousin that everybody loved."
"He was everybody's favorite everything," she said. "He was the favorite friend, he was the favorite cousin. So many memories."
In the video of the fatal encounter, bystanders can be heard asking the officer to remove his knee and telling him that Floyd can't breathe. One person says that Floyd's nose is bleeding.
"I can’t thank them enough," Tate said. "We always see these kinds of things that take place and we wonder what would we do if we were placed in that position, and I can only be grateful that there were people there who were advocating for him, even more so grateful for the person who was there with the camera to capture it."
The Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis issued a statement Tuesday saying:
"Now is not the time rush to judgement and immediately condemn our officers. An in-depth investigation is underway. Our officers are fully cooperating. We must review all video. We must wait for the medical examiner’s report. Officers’ actions and training protocol will be carefully examined after the officers have provided their statements. The Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis will provide full support to the involved officers. We ask that the community remain calm and let the investigation be completed in full."
The Floyd family's attorney, Ben Crump, told TMX.news he believes the officer shown in the video with his knee on Floyd's neck should be charged with murder, and that the other officers should be charged as accomplices to a murder.
"They were supposed to protect and serve citizens like George," Crump said. "We in black America, we are done dying at the hands of the people who are supposed to protect and serve us."
Crump said the termination of the four officers is a "good first step." He compared the death to Eric Garner, who also spoke the words "I can't breathe" before he died in a police chokehold. But Crump said in his mind, Floyd's death is "in many ways worse."
"Because they got their knee on his neck and he's begging, pleading, not one minute, not two minutes, not three minutes, but eight minutes, begging them to let him breathe," he said.
Crump said in a statement Tuesday that he will "seek justice" for the family and "demand answers" from police.
The FBI says its investigation will focus on "whether the Minneapolis Police Department officers involved willfully deprived the individual of a right or privilege protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States." It will forward its findings to the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Minnesota for possible federal charges.
The BCA will present its findings to the Hennepin County Attorney's Office separately. Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman issued a statement Tuesday saying, "The Hennepin County Attorney’s Office is shocked and saddened by what appeared in a recent video." He promised a "thorough, expedited review" consistent with his office's ongoing commitment to justice.
"Every person is entitled to fairness; no person stands above the law," Freeman said.
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