At a White House roundtable discussion with industry executives on reopening the country, Trump expressed condolences over the death of Floyd.
“I want to express our nation’s deepest condolences and most heartfelt sympathies to the family of George Floyd,” Trump said. “Terrible event, terrible terrible thing that happened.”
“It’s a terrible thing. We all saw what we saw. And it’s very hard to even conceive of anything other than what we did see,” he added. “It should never happen—it should never be allowed to happen, a thing like that. But we’re determined that justice be served.”
Trump said that he “spoke to members of the family, terrific people.”
He later told reporters, “I just expressed my sorrow [to the family]. That was a horrible thing to witness. And I’ve seen many bad things. That was just a horrible thing to witness and to watch.”
Referring to the video footage of how a policeman pinned Floyd down to the ground, Trump said: “[Floyd] was in tremendous pain obviously, and couldn’t breathe, it was very obvious, anybody that watched it. It was a very sad thing for me to see that.”
“We also know that most policemen, we see a great job they do, they do a fantastic job, but this was a terrible insult to police and policemen,” Trump added. “I know the Justice Department is also looking at it very strongly.”
The president said that he has asked the Department of Justice to expedite an investigation into Floyd’s death.
He said the government continues to support the rights of peaceful protesters but “cannot allow a situation like [what] happened in Minneapolis to descend further into lawless anarchy and chaos.”
“It’s very important, I believe, to the family, to everybody, that the memory of George Floyd be a perfect memory—let it be a perfect memory—the looters should not be allowed to drown out the voices of so many peaceful protesters,” Trump said.
“The family of George is entitled to justice and the people of Minnesota are entitled to live in safety,” Trump said. “Law and order will prevail, the Americans will honor the memory of George and the Floyd family.”
“It’s very important to me to see that everything is taken care of carefully, it’s a horrible, horrible situation.”
Floyd died in Minnesota on Monday while in police custody at the city’s Third Police Precinct. Floyd had been arrested on suspicion of using a counterfeit bill at a store.
Disturbing video footage on the day showed a police officer using his knee on Floyd’s neck to pin him to the ground. Floyd, who was unarmed and handcuffed, pleaded to the officers while repeatedly calling out “I can’t breathe” during the episode.
Minneapolis Police said in a statement on Tuesday that officers were responding to a report of forgery when the suspect “physically resisted officers.” According to the statement, Floyd died after “suffering medical distress.”
Derek Chauvin, the officer who pinned down Floyd, was fired on Tuesday, along with another three officers involved in Floyd’s arrest—Thomas Lane, Tou Thao, and J. Alexander Kueng. On Friday, Chauvin was arrested and charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in connection with Floyd’s death. Chauvin faces more than 12 years in prison if convicted of murder.
According to criminal complaint cited by The Associated Press, police were trying to bring Floyd into a squad car when he stiffened and fell to the ground, saying he was claustrophobic. Chauvin and Tou Thao arrived and tried several times to get the struggling Floyd into the car.
Eventually, Chauvin pulled Floyd out of the car. Kueng held Floyd’s back and Lane held his legs, while Chauvin put his knee on Floyd’s head and neck area, the complaint said. Lane asked if Floyd should be rolled onto his side, and Chauvin said, “No, staying put is where we got him.” Lane said he was “worried about excited delirium or whatever.”
After Floyd apparently stopped breathing, Lane again said he wanted to roll Floyd onto his side. Kueng checked for a pulse and said he could not find one, according to the complaint.
An autopsy said the combined effects of being restrained, potential intoxicants in Floyd’s system and his underlying health issues, including heart disease, likely contributed to his death. The autopsy report revealed nothing to support strangulation as the cause of death, reported AP.
There were no other details about intoxicants, and toxicology results can take weeks. In the 911 call that reported Floyd to the police, the caller describes Floyd, who was suspected of paying with counterfeit money, as “awfully drunk and … not in control of himself.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.