Officer who put knee on man’s neck should be charged: US mayor

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The mayor of Minneapolis called on Wednesday for criminal charges against the white police officer seen on video kneeling against the neck of a handcuffed black man who complained that he could not breathe and died in police custody.

Based on the video, Mayor Jacob Frey said officer Derek Chauvin should be charged in the death of George Floyd. The footage recorded by a bystander shows Chauvin with his knee on Floyd’s neck as Floyd gasps for breath on the ground with his face against the pavement. The officer does not move for at least eight minutes, even after Floyd stops speaking and moving.

“I’ve wrestled with, more than anything else over the last 36 hours, one fundamental question: Why is the man who killed George Floyd not in jail?” said Frey, who is white. He later added, “I saw no threat. I saw nothing that would signal that this kind of force was necessary.”

The day after Floyd died, Chauvin and three other officers were fired — an act that did not stem the flood of anger that followed the widely seen video shot on Memorial Day outside a convenience store.

Protesters marched over two miles on Tuesday to the police precinct in that part of the city, with some damaging property and skirmishing with officers in riot gear who fired tear gas.

Conflict erupted again on Wednesday at the same precinct, with some protesters throwing rocks and bottles at police. News helicopter video appeared to show looting of nearby stores, including a Target, a Cub Foods and an auto parts store, with no evident police intervention.

In this Wednesday, May 27, 2020 photo, a looter uses a claw hammer as he tries to break in to a cash register at a Target store in Minneapolis. Rioters ignited fires and looted stores all over the city, as peaceful protests turned increasingly violent in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd. (Richard Tsong-Taatarii/Star Tribune via AP)

Another demonstration unfolded on the street outside Chauvin’s suburban home. An officer told protesters that Chauvin was not there. Red cans of paint were earlier spilled on his driveway, and someone wrote “murderer” in chalk at the end of his driveway. No one answered when an Associated Press reporter knocked on the door.

Many activists, citizens and celebrities called for criminal charges before Frey did.

But Floyd’s family and the community may have to wait months, if not years, before investigations are complete.

Floyd family attorney Benjamin Crump, a prominent civil rights lawyer, called for peaceful protests. “We cannot sink to the level of our oppressors, and we must not endanger others during this pandemic,” Crump said in a statement. “We will demand and ultimately force lasting change by shining a light on treatment that is horrific and unacceptable and by winning justice.”

Police Chief Medaria Arradondo, who rose to the top job after his predecessor was forced out following the 2017 shooting of an unarmed white woman by a black Minneapolis officer, urged protesters to “be respectful”. He said he was working to change the department’s culture. “One incident can significantly bring people to doubt that,” he said.

The chief defended the department’s use of tear gas to break up Tuesday night’s protests, saying officers used it only after some people broke into a secure area that gave them access to squad cars and weapons.

Governor Tim Walz and Minnesota’s two top law enforcement officials — Attorney General Keith Ellison and Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington, both black — promised a thorough, transparent investigation. But Walz and Ellison didn’t endorse the mayor’s call to immediately charge the officer, saying the legal process needs to play out.