(CNN) – Four Minneapolis police officers were fired for their role in the death of a black man who was pinned to one knee while claiming he was unable to breathe, officials said Tuesday.
The FBI is investigating the incident, which generated widespread condemnation for officers after a video showing part of the encounter circulated on social media.
The death of George Floyd, 46, brought hundreds of people to the streets of Minneapolis on Tuesday.
Protesters, many in face masks, carried signs with the message “I can’t breathe” and sang together near the scene of Monday’s incident. Some motorists honked their horn in support.
At night, police attempted to disperse crowds outside Minneapolis’ third police compound after a glass window was broken, John Elder, director of the police department’s public information office, told CNN.
All four officers were “removed from employment,” Officer Garrett Parten, a police spokesman, said Tuesday.
“I support their decisions, 100%,” said Mayor Jacob Frey, in a statement about the firing of the policemen by Police Chief Medaria Arradondo. “It is the right decision for our city. The right decision for our community is the right decision for the Minneapolis Police Department. “
Agents who responded to an alleged forgery in progress on Monday night were initially informed that a suspect was sitting in a car and appeared to be under the influence of psychoactive, police said.
A couple of officers located the man, who was in the car at the time, and that police said he “physically resisted” the police when ordered to leave. Agents handcuffed the man, who “appeared to be suffering from medical problems,” according to police. He died in a hospital a short time later, police said.
Mayor Jacob Frey said the technique used to hold George Floyd’s head to the ground was against department regulations.
After several minutes of pleading as a police officer pressed his knee to the back of his neck, the man appeared motionless, his eyes closed and his head against the pavement.
Frey, during a forum broadcast on Facebook, said the police had no reason to use the maneuver on the man’s neck.
“The technique that was used is not allowed; it is not a technique for which our agents receive training, ”he said. “And our boss has been very clear about that. There is no reason to apply that kind of pressure with one knee to someone’s neck. ”
The video shows two officers near the man on the ground, one of them with his knee on the man’s neck. The video did not capture what led to the arrest or what the police described as resistance to arrest.
“Please, I can’t breathe,” said the man, screaming for several minutes before falling silent. Spectators urged the police to release the man.
Civil rights lawyer Benjamin Crump, in a statement, identified the man as Floyd and said he was representing his family. The mayor also identified him on Twitter.
“We all watched George Horyd’s horrible death on video as witnesses begged the police officer to take him to the police car and get off his neck,” Crump said. “This abusive, excessive, and inhuman use of force cost the life of a man who was detained by the police for questioning on a non-violent charge.”
Floyd’s cause and form of death remains pending and is being investigated by local, state and federal police, the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office said in a statement.
Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, via Twitter, called the incident “another horrible and heartbreaking instance of a black man dying.”
Frey offered her condolences to the man’s family on Tuesday, adding that “what we saw was horrible, a complete and utter disaster.”
“For five minutes, we saw a white police officer press his knee against the neck of a black man,” Frey told reporters.
“When you hear someone asking for help, you are supposed to help. This agent failed in the most basic human sense. What happened on Chicago Street at 38 this last night is just awful. It was traumatic and serves as a clear reminder of how far we still have to go. ”
“Being black in the United States,” Frey said, should not be “a death sentence.”
The Minneapolis Federation of Police Officers said in a statement that police officers were cooperating in the investigation.
“Now is not the time to rush (to judge) and immediately convict our agents,” the statement said. “The actions of the agents and the training protocol will be carefully examined after the agents have provided their statements.”
In a Facebook video released Monday, passersby urged the police to leave the man. Two officers held the man to the ground while another stood nearby watching passersby as traffic passed in the background.
“My stomach hurts,” the man told the agent. “My neck hurts. Everything hurts”.
At one point the man said, “Give me some water or something. Please. Please”.
“His nose is bleeding,” said one woman.
“He is not even resisting arrest,” said one man. “You are not responding at this time, brother.”
Frey said he understood anger in the community, but reminded potential protesters that “there is another danger right now that is covid-19.”
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“We need to make sure that everyone who protests and expresses their opinion is kept safe and their families are also protected,” he said. “So please practice safe distancing, please wear a mask.”
Minnesota Governor Tim Walz tweeted Tuesday: “The lack of humanity in this disturbing video is disgusting. We will get answers and seek justice. ”
St. Paul, Minnesota, Mayor Melvin Carter called the video of the incident “one of the vilest and most heartbreaking footage I’ve ever seen.”
“The agent who stood guard is as responsible as his partner; both must be held accountable, ”Carter tweeted. “This must stop now.”
Paige Fernández, the ACLU’s police policy adviser, said the incident recalled the death of Eric Garner in New York in 2014, who repeated “I can’t breathe” multiple times after a police officer stopped him with a stranglehold. Garner died during the arrest, the incident was also captured on video.
“Even in places like Minneapolis, where bottlenecks are technically prohibited, the police attack blacks for low-level crimes and subject them to irrational and unnecessary violence,” Fernandez said in a statement. Make no mistake: George Floyd should be alive today. The officers responsible must be held accountable. ”
The cameras they carried on the body were activated during the incident, police said.
Chris Boyette, Josh Campbell, and Brad Parks contributed to this report.