A video showing a Minneapolis cop kill an unarmed, handcuffed civilian went viral on Monday, leading to outrage over police brutality, yet again. The footage shows one cop pinning a man down on the street using his knee and shin on his neck, as at least two other cops watch. Other pictures of the incident show three cops holding Floyd down and one dealing with bystanders. The victim repeatedly complains that he cannot breathe, which can be heard on the video. A few hours later, the innocent man was pronounced dead by hospital staff. Two of the cops have been placed on paid vacation, (a.k.a. administrative leave), and authorities claim that they will investigate the incident.
The Minneapolis Police said in an official statement that the cops had responded to a ‘forgery in progress’, reportedly involving a store cashier calling the police due to suspicion about a customer’s check not being valid. According to the police statement, Floyd fit the caller’s description, as reported by The Daily Mail. It certainly appears that police responded to a non-violent crime, found a person who matched a description passed from a caller to a call receiver to a dispatcher to a police officer, and the suspect’s death ensued at their hands. “This is why you don’t do drugs, kids.”, one of the cops is heard saying in the video. Once the victim becomes unresponsive, bystanders can be heard pleading with the officers to “check his pulse!”
Controlling the scene
One of the primary tasks of law enforcement is to control suspects. In images of the incident, three cops could be seen holding down the handcuffed suspect, who was lying on his side and not fighting. Considering that he was already handcuffed and on the ground, one cop likely could have subdued him. Additionally, cops can easily call for backup and have many more cops on scene within a very short time, especially in a city like Minneapolis. Being unable to subdue a man who poses no threat seems inexcusable.
How the cop killed George Floyd
As you can see in the video, the police officer held the innocent man down with his knee pressing on his neck for six minutes. From the video footage, it seems that excessive pressure was likely placed on the victim’s neck, causing the vessels on the right side to be compressed by the leg and the left side to be compressed by the asphalt. The cop’s weight was likely enough to occlude the carotid arteries, which could be lethal. Even less pressure is needed to compress the jugular veins, though. Veins drain blood from the brain, while arteries bring fresh blood to the brain. If blood is not allowed to drain from the skull via the veins, the new blood being brought in by the arteries will cause excessive pressure in the skull, which would kill the victim. The victim also likely felt some pressure on his trachea, so his primary complaint was the ominous “I can’t breathe”, unaware that the lack of blood flow to his brain was the process which was quickly killing him. This man could have died from venous or arterial compression of the neck, which ultimately would have caused either a major stroke or severe cerebral edema.
While cops and their sympathizers often defend violent actions by police by implying that bad people deserve to be killed by cops, such actions are indefensible in a civil society. A primary feature of a civil society is ‘due process’. This means that before a suspect – even suspects who cops consider evil and dangerous – may be punished, a trial must take place. This trial must feature a judge, jury, lawyers, witnesses, and evidence. In the US, this is exactly how it is supposed to work. According to the law, police officers only have one power: The power to arrest those suspected of committing a crime and bring them to court to be tried. Then, the court determines if they are innocent or guilty. This concept seems lost on police sympathizers. If police are to be granted the power to convict and punish suspects, we must make a few changes to our legal system:
- Pass a law on the jurisdictional level granting cops this new power.
- Abolish courts, juries, public defenders, and prosecutors.
- Return the saved money of the aforementioned employees and systems to taxpayers.
As expected, many Republican activists and elected officials are already defending the cops in the video. Regardless of what the victim did, he deserved a trial. Due process is the foundation of justice in a civil society. Yet, too often, Americans are left at the mercy of cops and their guns. Based on the video footage, the officers should be prosecuted, possibly for manslaughter or homicide. Even though they murdered a man without giving him any due process, these cops ought to be given a fair trial and an opportunity to defend their actions. This is a civil society. We aren’t savages, after all.
UPDATE: Four of the involved officers have been let go.
UPDATE: We have created a spreadsheet to track criminal cops in the US. Please contribute what you can to it.
UPDATE: You can also help the cause by signing our petition and the many others calling for justice.
Update: Elliot’s petition asking for the murderer to be punished has received 238,000 signatures.