Apr 21, 2021 - Politics

How Minneapolis police initially described George Floyd's murder

George Floyd memorial

Memorial to George Floyd at the intersection of 38th Street and Chicago Avenue in Minneapolis. Brandon Bell/Getty Images

A Minneapolis Police Department press release from the day of George Floyd's death last year went viral Tuesday in the wake of Derek Chauvin's conviction on murder charges.

The big picture: MPD's initial description of the tragedy, which set off a massive global movement that culminated in the jury's guilty verdict on all charges, claimed that Floyd "physically resisted officers" and "appeared to be suffering medical distress" after being handcuffed. It made no mention of the kind of force Chauvin used on the 46-year-old Black man.

Between the lines: "To a reader on May 25, 2020, that description depicts an immediately connected chain of events: as Floyd is handcuffed, it is noted that he in distress," writes the Washington Post's Philip Bump.

  • "But in reality, the preceding paragraph includes the longest “and” in the history of the English language. It is an over nine-minute- 'and,' linking the moment when Floyd was placed in handcuffs to the time at which that 'medical distress' necessitated that he be moved to an ambulance," Bump continues.
  • "It’s an 'and' that silently includes more than a minute in which Floyd had already lost consciousness."

Background: John Elder, the Minneapolis Police Department director of public information who wrote the press release, told the Los Angeles Times that he got his information from sergeants who worked in the area where Floyd was killed and a computer log of communications between officers and dispatchers.

  • Elder told the L.A. Times the log did not include any details about the use of force and that he did not review body-camera footage, which he said would have required him to wait several hours. He realized that the press release was inaccurate only after cell phone footage emerged.
  • “This had literally zero intent to deceive or be dishonest or disingenuous. Had we known that this [situation] was what we saw on the video, that statement would have been completely different,” Elder told the Times.

Full press release

Man Dies After Medical Incident During Police Interaction
May 25, 2020 (MINNEAPOLIS) On Monday evening, shortly after 8:00 pm, officers from the Minneapolis Police Department responded to the 3700 block of Chicago Avenue South on a report of a forgery in progress.  Officers were advised that the suspect was sitting on top of a blue car and appeared to be under the influence.
Two officers arrived and located the suspect, a male believed to be in his 40s, in his car.  He was ordered to step from his car.  After he got out, he physically resisted officers.  Officers were able to get the suspect into handcuffs and noted he appeared to be suffering medical distress.  Officers called for an ambulance.  He was transported to Hennepin County Medical Center by ambulance where he died a short time later.
At no time were weapons of any type used by anyone involved in this incident.
The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension has been called in to investigate this incident at the request of the Minneapolis Police Department.
No officers were injured in the incident.
Body worn cameras were on and activated during this incident.
The GO number associated with this case is 20-140629.

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