Leaked George Floyd Video: Shedding Light on the Arrest

After weeks of riots, calls to defund the police, and national acceptance of the systematic racism narrative spun buy radicals, the public can finally see the full story of George Floyd’s encounter with law enforcement. The leaked body-cam footage obtained by the Daily Mail shows a legitimate law enforcement investigation, a non-compliant suspect, and a terrible ending that could have been avoided had Floyd simply listened to the police officers and followed simple commands.

The first thing to note is that Minneapolis officers were not simply cruising around looking for a black citizen to harass. The beginning of the new footage shows a store owner reporting to officers that Floyd had passed counterfeit currency. The store owner also pointed out Floyd’s vehicle and suggested that Floyd was under the influence. Floyd was sitting in the driver’s seat of the vehicle when encountered. Under Terry v. Ohio (1968) and its progeny, police officers had (at a minimum) reasonable suspicion that criminal activity was afoot and thus authority to stop Floyd and to investigate. Once away from his own vehicle, Floyd was informed he was under arrest for passing counterfeit money.

The video also reveals that from the beginning of the encounter with law enforcement Floyd was non-cooperative, resisted, and acted as if he were intoxicated. Such behavior is par for the course for a career criminal with convictions for assault, robbery, theft with a firearm, and drug crimes. The autopsy report revealed that Floyd had fentanyl and methamphetamine in his system at the time of his death. Based on the footage and lab report, it appears he was high.

The police simply asked Floyd to sit in the back of the police cruiser so they could sort the matter out. Floyd refused and continued to resist. In the video you can hear a passer-by tell Floyd that he is “not going to win” and to stop resisting (approx 8:35). Floyd disregarded this sound advice. Officers got Floyd into the back seat, but Floyd continued to struggle and tried to get out the other door of the vehicle. Floyd kept saying that he could not breathe. Had he stopped fighting and sat in the backseat, the physical exertion would have ended.

At about 10:50 into the video, officers give up on getting Floyd to sit in the car and put him on the ground. At this point Floyd is held down and a knee applied to the back of his neck. According to Minneapolis police policy at the time of the encounter, neck restraint—”Defined as compressing one or both sides of a person’s neck with an arm or leg, without applying direct pressure to the trachea or airway (front of the neck)”—was permissible when a suspect was actively resisting police officers. Floyd was unquestionably in a state of active resistance. Now, the policy has been changed to prohibit neck restraints, but at the time of the event officers were acting within department guidelines.

While on the ground, Floyd continued to say he could not breathe and that the police were going to kill him. Unfortunately, from his unruly behavior in the back of the car and nonsensical talk, it is likely officers did not appreciate the very real distress Floyd found himself in. As Floyd ceased stirring and resisting, police officer Derek Chauvin should have eased up on the neck restraint and rolled Floyd on his side as a colleague at the scene suggested. But he did not. I would speculate that there was not a high degree of trust for Floyd and thus officers were not sure that he was indeed done acting out. This distrust proved fatal, but was generated by Floyd and no one else.

Seeing the full video raises the question whether Chauvin and his colleagues have been overcharged by prosecutors. Andrew McCarthy of National Review makes a compelling case that they have been:

The second-degree murder charge is now the main charge against all four officers. Essentially, the theory is that they committed a felony assault when they subdued a suspect who was resisting arrest. During the course of carrying out that “crime,” prosecutors allege, Floyd’s death resulted.

The problem with this charge is that the police did nothing wrong in the encounter with Floyd until, as discussed above, at some point when he was on the ground and resistance ceased, the knee should have been removed from the neck and Floyd rolled over on his side.

Hence, a charge that fits Chauvin’s conduct much better is manslaughter in the second degree, which appeared in the original charging document and remains even with the additional murder charge. Under Minnesota law:

A person who causes the death of another by any of the following means is guilty of manslaughter in the second degree and may be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than ten years or to payment of a fine of not more than $20,000, or both:

(1) by the person’s culpable negligence whereby the person creates an unreasonable risk, and consciously takes chances of causing death or great bodily harm to another....

When I watch the full video, second degree manslaughter appears to be a more reasonable fit for Chauvin. Of course, “manslaughter” does not sound as vile as “murder” and clearly state authorities in their charging decisions are kowtowing to the wishes of the mob. “Murder” fits the agenda of Black Lives Matter and the radical Left. Their agenda insists that police across the nation are infected with systematic racism and are out to intentionally harm black people.

What about charges for the other officers standing by? At worse, they aided and abetted Chauvin. Charging them with murder is insane and political. But for the national politics swirling around this event, there would probably be a fair chance that prosecutors would have singled out Chauvin for criminal charges and let the others serve as witnesses.

Bottom line: If George Floyd had simply listened to police officers while they conducted a lawful investigation, he would not have died. Officers showed respect and restraint when dealing with Floyd. This respect and restraint should have continued once Floyd was on the ground and his resistance ceased. Chauvin appears to have acted negligently in continuing to apply the neck restraint for so long. But there’s no way he acted with the intent to murder Floyd. Police officers have a difficult job. The antics of a non-compliant offender such as Floyd make things more difficult for the police and, in the long run, the rest of us.

UPDATE:  For clarity, let’s remember that Floyd did not die on the ground at the scene. The media has made it sound like he died while Chauvin applied pressure. This is untrue and has been used to stir people up. Floyd died at the hospital long after the encounter with law enforcement.

Also, a reader who asked for anonymity makes this point:

But, the video reveals an apparently drugged and drunk Floyd who is clearly incapable of listening, reasoning or thinking. His repeated cries to “Mamma” that he can’t breathe might be an expression that he really could not breathe or a nightmarish feeling that he could not breathe. So the police crew should have called for immediate medical assistance to sedate the intellectually uncontrollable Floyd rather than trying to tame him with brute force.

This is a fair point.

When should the officers have called for an ambulance? According to video and documents, they did so at approximately 8:22–a couple of minutes after Floyd was on the ground. There is an argument that they should have summoned medical help earlier. When would a reasonable police officer have concluded that Floyd was not merely “showing out” but was “clearly incapable of listening, reasoning or thinking?” I’m not sure. It appears officers had their hands full with Floyd and were merely trying to control the situation. It was not long after he was on the ground that they summoned medical help. Hence, it inures to their benefit that shortly after the struggle was over, officers did call for an ambulance. Also, was Floyd really incapable of thinking or reasoning? He was capable of making a transaction with counterfeit and gong back to his vehicle. He was also capable of fibbing to police about his drug use. Moreover, I’ve seen lots of body cam footage where individuals feign intellectual limitations or “play possum” with the police. I think it is asking a bit much to assume that the officers should have immediately determined that he was “incapable of reasoning” and summoned medical help before the struggle or during it.
William J. Watkins, Jr. is a Research Fellow at the Independent Institute and author of the Independent books, Crossroads for Liberty, Reclaiming the American Revolution, and Patent Trolls.
Posts by William J. Watkins, Jr. | Full Biography and Publications
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