President Trump promised “justice will be served” after announcing Wednesday that he has ordered a federal investigation into the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old African American man who died Monday while in police custody in Minneapolis.
“At my request, the FBI and the Department of Justice are already well into an investigation as to the very sad and tragic death in Minnesota of George Floyd,” Trump said in a statement on Twitter. “I have asked for this investigation to be expedited and greatly appreciate all of the work done by local law enforcement. My heart goes out to George’s family and friends. Justice will be served!”
In a statement on Twitter Thursday, Republican Sen. Mitt Romney also called on the nation to not allow Floyd’s death to go in vain.
“No Americans should fear enmity and harm from those sworn to protect us. The death of George Floyd must not be in vain: Our shock and outrage must grow into collective determination to extinguish forever such racist abuse,” he said.
Trump’s announcement comes after Floyd’s fatal encounter with four now-fired Minneapolis police officers, which was caught on video, triggered violent protests in that city which have since spread to other locations, including Memphis and Los Angeles.
The approximately 10-minute video of the encounter shows a handcuffed Floyd lying face down begging for his life and crying for his mother while Officer Derek Chauvin kneels into his neck. Chauvin kneels into Floyd’s neck until he begins to bleed from his nose and becomes unresponsive. Even after Floyd becomes motionless on the ground, Chauvin continued pressing his knee into his neck for several more minutes as bystanders begged him to have mercy.
The Star Tribune reported that Floyd was pronounced dead about 90 minutes after his encounter with the police.
Police say that around 8 p.m. Monday, they were called to investigate a report of someone trying to pay with a counterfeit bill at Cup Foods located at 3759 Chicago Ave. Two rookie police officers found a man matching the suspect’s description parked in his car on E 38th St., across the street from Cup Foods, and arrested him.
Officers Tou Thao and Chauvin later joined them. Chauvin and Thao take the suspect around the corner to their squad car parked on Chicago Avenue where Chauvin restrained Floyd with a knee to his neck. Paramedics later came to the scene and put Floyd onto a gurney and into a waiting ambulance. He was pronounced dead at 9:25 p.m.
Hennepin Healthcare EMS Chief Marty Scheerer told the Star Tribune that even though Floyd was unresponsive and without a pulse when they received his body, they desperately tried to revive him.
“He still had an outside chance,” Scheerer said. “Even if it’s a super long shot, you’ve got to try your best.”
The video of Floyd’s encounter with the police has sparked widespread condemnation including from several prominent Christian leaders across racial and denominational lines, who are now speaking out and urging others to take a stand against racial injustice.
"I am disturbed, brokenhearted, and deeply grieved when I see and read that another black man's sacred life has been unjustly snuffed out," Marshal Ausberry, Southern Baptist Convention first vice president and president of the National African American Fellowship of the SBC, said in a statement to Baptist Press. "The life of George Floyd was ended by those charged to protect and serve. They became judge, jury and executioner."
Fox News senior judicial analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano told “Fox & Friends” that given what the video shows of Floyd's arrest and his death at the hands of an officer, Attorney General Bill Barr should be asking why the fired Minneapolis officers have not yet been arrested.
"Of course they should be charged. ... If I were the attorney general, Bill Barr, I would call up the attorney general of Minnesota and say, 'why haven't [the officers] been charged with murder? Why are they free? Why are they not in jail if we have a video of the murder? If you guys don't do it, we will,'" Napolitano said.
He noted that the FBI could charge the officers with a federal crime if the state does not immediately pursue a murder charge.
"There are two violations here. There is murder and then there is the use of lethal force to deprive him of his civil rights. The murder is the state crime. The use of force to deprive him of his civil rights — in this case, the right to breathe — is a federal crime. Cops can actually be prosecuted for both," he said, noting that protests will continue until the officers are arrested.
The FBI was called in to assist local police with the case which echoes the case of Eric Garner, an unarmed black man who died in New York City in 2014 after pleading “I can’t breathe” when he was placed in a chokehold by a police officer.
In a statement to The Christian Post Wednesday, the Rev. Dr. Curtiss Paul DeYoung, CEO of the Minnesota Council of Churches, which represents about 1 million Christians, urged churches to pray, protest and support the grieving African American community.
“Find ways to be present where people are feeling grief and outrage. Many of us were at the protest rally last night in Minneapolis held at the site of the killing. But this presence must continue in the days ahead. Reach out to African American church leaders and members and stand with them in this moment. Stand with the Minneapolis NAACP, Urban League, and other black-led civil rights and community organizations. Stand with the courageous young activists who have relentlessly pressed the issues through the senseless police killings of Jamar Clark and Philando Castile and now George Floyd,” he wrote.
“Presence must turn into protest. Speak truth to power. Do not allow this great violation to go unchecked. Call for police accountability. Call for a system-wide transformation of policing in Minnesota. Call this an act of anti-black racism even when some white narratives blame the victim,” he added.
On Thursday, Al Sharpton is expected to join Eric Garner’s mother, Gwen Carr, and Minneapolis clergy and activists to lead a prayer vigil at the site where Floyd was killed.