Minnesota prosecutors said on May 28 that they won’t “rush” to press charges against the four officers involved in the death of George Floyd, a man who died in police custody when he was handcuffed and had a knee placed on his neck.
Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said on Thursday night that he will not hastily press charges as “justice cannot be rushed,” pointing to the 2015 case of 25-year-old Freddie Grey from Baltimore who died a week after he was critically injured while in police custody.
“I will just point to you the comparison to what happened in Baltimore and the Gray case,” he told reporters. “There was a rush to charge, it was a rush to justice, and all of those people were found not guilty.”
“I will not rush to justice. I’m going to do this right,” he said of Floyd’s case. “And those folks who know me in the African [American] community know I will do my very level best. But I will not rush justice, because justice cannot be rushed.”
Of the six Baltimore police officers involved in Gray’s arrest and death, three were acquitted of all charges, while three had all remaining charges dropped by Baltimore State Attorney Marilyn Mosby.
Freeman told reporters at a press briefing that prosecutors plan to investigate Floyd’s case “as expeditiously, as thoroughly and completely as justice demands.”
“That video is graphic and horrific and terrible, and no person should do that,” Freeman said, referring to video footage published of the incident, which has drawn both peaceful and violent protests in Minneapolis, and spread quickly on social media.
Video footage shows that police officer—44-year-old Derek Chauvin—kneeling on Floyd’s neck as Floyd complained that he couldn’t breathe.
Floyd, 46, a father-of-two, was pronounced dead Monday night after he was taken into custody by authorities in Minneapolis. According to a Minneapolis Fire Department report published on Twitter from KARE 11, Floyd was unresponsive and “pulseless” when being transported into an ambulance by paramedics from the site of his arrest to the hospital.
“I cannot breathe! I cannot breathe!” Floyd yelled as witnesses gathered. He added, “Don’t kill me!”
“My stomach hurts, my neck hurts, everything hurts … I can’t breathe,” Floyd said while under the officer’s restraint.
“He’s talking, so he’s breathing,” an officer said, before Floyd gradually became motionless.
Minneapolis police said in a statement on Tuesday that officers were responding to a report of forgery when the man resisted. According to the statement, Floyd died after “suffering medical distress.”
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, who previously called for Chauvin’s arrest, declared a local emergency (pdf) in the city on Thursday night due to growing violent protests and unrest following Floyd’s death.
According to a declaration, Minneapolis has asked the state of Minnesota for assistance, including authorization of the Minnesota National Guard to aid local authorities in “restoring safety and calm due to the civil disturbance.”
In the third straight night of violent protests on Thursday, protestors angered by Floyd’s death gained access to a Minneapolis police precinct.
Livestream video showed the protesters entering the building, where fire alarms blared and sprinklers ran as blazes were set. Police appeared to have left the building that is in the neighborhood not far from where Floyd died Monday.
The emergency declaration allows the city to implement emergency regulations with immediate effect, and will remain in place for 72 hours.
Floyd’s girlfriend, meanwhile, has called for an end to the unrest, saying that the violent protests would “devastate” him.
“Waking up this morning to see Minneapolis on fire would be something that would devastate Floyd. He loved the city,” Courteney Ross told The Star Tribune. “He came here [from Houston] and stayed here for the people and the opportunities. … Floyd was a gentle giant. He was about love and about peace.”
“I want people to protest in a peaceful way,” she added.
According to police chief Medaria Arradondo, Wednesday night had also seen violent protests in parallel to peaceful protests. Arradondo said that the people responsible for looting and setting fires to businesses were not believed to be locals from Minneapolis.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.