This article describes disturbing videos of the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers. The videos are not embedded.
In the two-plus months since his death, George Floyd has become one of the most powerful symbols in the world. Murals of his face have gone up around the country and millions have protested around the world, as his death at the hands of Minneapolis police neatly told a much larger story about police corruption, militarization, violence, and racism.
But before he was a symbol, George Floyd was a man, and newly leaked police bodycam video is a gut-wrenching reminder of that fact, that all of the abstract forces that have been the subject of protests around the country resonate because of the awful thing that happened to this flesh-and-blood human being.
What is the origin of the videos?
The videos were captured by two police-issued body cameras. Ten minutes of the footage comes from a camera worn by Thomas Lane. Eighteen minutes comes from one worn by Alex Keung. They were the officers who responded to a call from a clerk at the Cup Foods Convenience Store that Floyd had tried to pass a phony $20 bill.
How did the footage come out?
The Daily Mail says that the footage — 10 minutes from Lane’s bodycam, 18 minutes from Keung’s — was leaked to it. Transcripts of the videos were released in mid-July, but a Minneapolis judge decided that the video itself should not be disseminated widely. In total, 65 minutes of bodycam footage was available to view in the courthouse, and it appears that the leaked video was filmed from a laptop there.
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison said he was not the source of the leak, which is now being investigated by the court.
So none of this is exactly new?
Other videos and reports have given us a pretty good idea of what exactly went down the day Minneapolis police murdered Floyd, but there’s an intimacy to the bodycam videos that makes them particularly gutwrenching to watch. The pain in Floyd’s voice, the callousness of the cops who ignore his pleas, and the growing distress among onlookers comes through in a powerful way.
How much of the incident do the leaked videos show?
Together, the videos show the events of that afternoon from the initial conversation with the clerk who called the police to a point where George Floyd has been pinned on the ground, not making any noise, for minutes while onlookers yell at the police to check his pulse.
What do the videos show?
Floyd is emotionally distressed from the moment the police encounter begins. He’s nervous from the point Lane knocks on his window, and with the exception of the time he’s allowed to sit on the ground, he expresses his fear of being shot, his claustrophobia of getting in the back of the car, and, of course, his inability to breathe. He cries out for his mama many times in the latter half of the incident.
The police know that Floyd has legitimate reasons for acting erratically, but they don’t seem to care. “He didn’t even do nothin’,” Shawana Hill, Floyd’s ex-girlfriend, tells Lane when he asks her and Floyd’s friend Maurice Hall for ID. Lane asks why Floyd is “being all squirrely” about getting out of his car.
“Well he’s been shot before,” Hill says. She also clarifies that he’s not drunk or on drugs, though the cops later speculate that he might be under the influence of PCP.
“He’s got a thing going on, I’m telling you,” she continues, circling her index finger around her ear in a commonly known hand signal for mental problems. “He has problems all the time when they come, especially when that man slipped that gun like that,” she went on, pantomiming how Lane held the gun pointed down when Floyd opened the car door.
These officers lost control of the situation. When they march Floyd over to the back of the car, he gets very upset. At one point he falls down. He tries to bargain for opening the windows or sitting in the front seat. His pleas fall of deaf ears, and the cops try to force him into the car.
Floyd resists getting into the back of the car, so Lane goes around to the other side to pull Floyd into the car while his partner pushes him. “I’m not a bad guy!” Floyd yells, his screams becoming louder and more concerning. He ends up going through the car onto the pavement on the passenger side, in the road, which is certainly not what they had in mind.
The police are callous throughout the incident. They ignore dozens of screams and pleas from Floyd, and take actions that actively agitate him, worsening the situation. Kueng is so blaise about the situation that he picks a small stone of the tread of the tire while Floyd lies underneath him, dying. Chauvin, who’s since been charged with Floyd’s murder, asks Lane and Kueng if they’re OK near the end of the video.
“My knee might be a little scratched, but I’ll survive,” Lane replies.
The video captures the first of millions of protestors inspired by George Floyd’s death. While the cops have him pinned, you can hear people challenging their use of force and pleading with them to get off of him and provide medical attention instead of force. In other words, you can hear people exercising their First Amendment rights to freedom of speech, peaceable assembly, and petitioning the Government — police officers, agents of the State — for a redress of grievances.
According to polls, anywhere from 15 to 26 million Americans joined them in Black Lives Matter movements that sprang up in cities big and small around the country in the wake of Floyd’s death. The people who saw Floyd die on a Minneapolis street have a different connection to the cause than those who heard about it secondhand, but they share a broad goal: to prevent anyone else from becoming a symbol the way George Floyd did.