MINNEAPOLIS — George Floyd repeatedly begged police officers not to shoot him and complained of being claustrophobic as they tried to place him in a squad car in the minutes before he was killed on a South Minneapolis street corner in May, according to transcripts of police body camera footage from the scene released Wednesday.
The transcripts make clear that Floyd was trying to cooperate with police but was deathly afraid of them, at times telling them that he had had covid-19 and was worried that he was going to die because he couldn’t breathe while in their custody. As one of the officers — Derek Chauvin — pressed a knee into his neck and held Floyd on the ground, he told Floyd that he must be okay because he was able to speak, saying that he was using up a lot of oxygen pleading for help.
“They going to kill me,” Floyd said as officers sat atop him in the street, according to the transcripts. “They’re going to kill me man.”
Floyd went lifeless minutes later and was pronounced dead.
The newly disclosed transcripts of audio from body cameras worn by J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas K. Lane, two of the four former Minneapolis police officers charged in Floyd’s killing, were disclosed in court Wednesday as Lane’s attorney sought to have charges against his client dismissed, arguing that there is not enough evidence that he committed a crime.
Lane, according to the transcripts, appeared to ask Chauvin — the most senior officer at the scene — whether they should reposition Floyd. Chauvin, according to the transcripts, declined and opted to wait for emergency medical help to arrive, keeping his knee on Floyd’s neck well after he lost consciousness.
The transcripts offer an expanded view of the events that led up to the Memorial Day killing of Floyd, 46, who died after being pressed into the pavement for about eight minutes. It was eight minutes that would inspire one of the largest and most sustained series of protests in U.S. history, eight minutes that would change the course of the American conversation on police brutality, social justice and racism.
The transcripts also offer more details about Floyd’s encounter with police and perhaps lay out the arguments that will dominate the proceedings as the officers are tried. They show that Floyd appeared to be afraid of any dealings with police, saying he had been previously shot by an officer and did not want it to happen again. He said he did not want to be placed in a squad car, said he wouldn’t hurt anyone and explained numerous times that he couldn’t breathe and worried that he was going to die.
They also show that officers at least briefly questioned the tactics of their superior, only to be rebuffed as Floyd took his last gasps of air.
Chauvin, the white officer who was shown with his knee on Floyd’s neck, has been charged with second-degree murder, while the three other officers at the scene — Kueng, Lane and Tou Thao — have been charged with aiding and abetting murder.
“And do you know why we pulled you out of the car? Because you was not listening to anything we told you,” Kueng told him, according to the transcript.
“Right, but I didn’t know what was going on,” Floyd replied.
“You listen to us, and we will tell you what’s going on, all right?” Kueng said.
“Yes sir,” Floyd told him.
Lane asked Floyd whether he was on drugs while Kueng pointed out the “foam” around his mouth. But Floyd insisted he was on “nothing” and had been playing basketball earlier.
“You acting real erratic,” Kueng said.
“I’m scared man,” Floyd replied.
According to the transcripts, the officers tried placing Floyd in the squad car, but he resisted, repeatedly telling them he was “claustrophobic” and had “anxiety.” He begged to be released from his handcuffs, promising he wouldn’t hurt anyone. “Y’all, I’m going to die in here,” he told them. “I just had COVID man, don’t want to go back to that.”
By then, Chauvin and Thao had arrived as Kueng and Lane were struggling to get Floyd in the car. It’s unclear whether they were attempting to assist, but at one point, an unknown officer sought to intervene, according to the transcripts. “Man, you’re going to die of a heart attack,” one of the officers told Floyd. “Just get in the car.”
Floyd began to bleed from the mouth, after bumping his head inside the vehicle, and Lane called emergency medical help to the scene. Floyd began to complain that he couldn’t breathe. “I just had COVID, man,” Floyd said. “I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. Please one of you listen to me.”
Chauvin asked whether Floyd was going to jail, and the officers pulled him from the car. “Get him down on the ground,” Chauvin said.
The transcripts show Floyd continued to complain that he couldn’t breathe and called out for his mother. The officers restrained him on the ground — Lane at his feet, Kueng at his back and Chauvin at his head. “You’re under arrest guy,” Chauvin told him.
“All right, all right. Oh my god. I can’t believe this. I can’t believe this,” Floyd said. “Mama, I love you . . . Tell my kids I love them. I’m dead.”
“You’re doing a lot of talking, man,” Chauvin replied.
As the officers held Floyd to the ground, Chauvin asked the other officers whether Floyd was “high.” Kueng told him they’d found “a pipe on him.” Floyd again told the officers he couldn’t breathe. “You’re doing fine. You’re talking fine,” Kueng said, as Lane told him to take a “deep breath” and Chauvin told him to “relax.”
“My neck hurts,” Floyd said.
“Uh huh,” Chauvin replied. “You’re doing a lot of talking, a lot of yelling.”
“They going to kill me,” Floyd said. “They’re going to kill me man.”
“Takes a heck of a lot of oxygen to say that,” Chauvin said.
Attorneys for Lane and Kueng, rookie officers who had been on the force for less than a week before Floyd’s death, have argued that their clients were merely following orders from Chauvin, the senior officer at the scene, as they kept Floyd pinned to the ground even as he complained of struggling to breathe.
The transcripts show Lane asked Chauvin several times whether Floyd should be moved.
“No, leave him,” Chauvin told him. “Staying put where we got him.”
...Video shows that Chauvin removed his knee from Floyd’s neck only when prodded by a paramedic.
...The Hennepin County Medical Examiner found that Floyd had fentanyl and methamphetamine in his system at the time of his death. But its report cited “cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression” as the cause of his death, not drugs.
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