Four Minneapolis police officers were fired Tuesday, authorities said, as state and federal authorities investigated the arrest of a Black man who died after being pinned to the ground.
Video of the incident shared on social media captured the man, identified as George Floyd by Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, repeatedly telling the officers, ‘‘I cannot breathe!’’ An increasingly distraught crowd of onlookers pleaded with the officer to move his knee.
By Tuesday afternoon, as outrage continued to build, Frey announced the termination of the officers.
‘‘This is the right call,’’ he wrote in posts on his Twitter and Facebook pages.
As the video spread on social media on Monday night, the arrest quickly drew comparisons to the case of Eric Garner, an unarmed Black man who died in New York Police custody in 2014, after an officer held him in a chokehold. Garner’s repeated plea of “I can’t breathe” — also recorded by a cellphone — became a rallying cry at demonstrations against police misconduct around the country.
Several hundred protesters gathered Tuesday evening in the street where Floyd died, chanting and carrying banners that read, “I can’t breathe” and “Jail killer KKKops.” Masks were handed out and some protesters socially distanced but many others were crowded together.
The Minneapolis incident began when two officers arrived at the 3700 block of Chicago Avenue South around 8 p.m. Monday, police said. Officers located the man, whom they believed to be under the influence of an intoxicant, inside his car. After he got out, police said, the man ‘‘physically resisted officers.’’
‘‘Officers were able to get the suspect into handcuffs and realized that the suspect was suffering a medical distress,’’ a Minneapolis police spokesman said in a news briefing early Tuesday. ‘‘Officers called for an ambulance. He was transported to Hennepin County Medical Center, where he died.’’
Police said that no weapons were used at any time by the man or the officers during the encounter.
Darnella Frazier was on her way to see friends when she saw the incident unfolding outside of a Cup Foods grocery store on the south side of Minneapolis. She quickly began recording the encounter in a 10-minute video later shared to Facebook.
‘‘When I walked up, he was already on the ground,” Frazier said in a Facebook video. ‘‘The cops, they was pinning him down by his neck and he was crying. They wasn’t trying to take him serious.’’
As more people gathered around the encounter outside the grocery store, the man pleaded that his whole body was in pain. Frazier recalled that the man’s face was being pressed so hard against the ground that his nose was bleeding.
Witnesses begged the white officer to take his knee off the man’s neck.
‘‘You’re going to just sit there with your knee on his neck?’’ one bystander said on the video.
Minutes later, the man appeared to be motionless on the ground, his eyes closed and head lying against the road.
‘‘Bro, he’s not even f------ moving!’’ one bystander pleaded to police. ‘‘Get off of his neck!’’
Another asked, ‘‘Did you kill him?’’
Later, the unconscious man was loaded onto a stretcher and into an ambulance. Bystanders who remained in front of Cup Foods pointed at the two officers and said the incident would haunt them.
During Tuesday’s news conference with the mayor, Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo said he had decided to ask the FBI to investigate after receiving ‘‘additional information’’ on the incident from a community source that ‘‘just provided more context than the information I had preliminarily.’’ He declined to elaborate.
Material from The New York Times and Associated Press was used in this report.