A neck restraint is listed as a “non-deadly force option” in the Minneapolis Police Department Policy & Procedure Manual, according to the police.
The Unconscious Neck Restraint shall only be applied in the following circumstances:
Why George Floyd Died
This is bracing. Here is the police body cam footage of the Minneapolis police officers’ encounter with George Floyd in the nearly eight minutes between the time they first engaged him, and put him on the ground and suppressed his neck:
Early, one of the officers has a gun on him, and tells him repeatedly to put his hands on the wheel. Floyd says, “I got shot the same way before.” Well then, says the cop, put your hands on the wheel when I tell you to.
The police tell him repeatedly to get out of the car, but he keeps saying, “Please don’t shoot me, please don’t shoot me.” Yet he refuses to obey them. At the 1:28 moment, Floyd says, “I just lost my mom, man.” (He was lying about that.)
At the 1:51 point, a female voice is heard saying, “Stop resisting!”
Floyd continues to resist arrest as they’re trying to cuff him. At about the 2:12 point, the officer says again, “Stop resisting!”
At 2:19, the police finally get the cuffs on Floyd, and put him back into the seat of his car.
In the seconds before a break at 3:57, one of the bystanders (a black woman) tells an officer that Floyd has mental problems. Then, at 3:57, we see Floyd cuffed and standing on the street. An officer says, “Are you on something right now?”
“No, nothing,” says Floyd.
This too was a lie. In fact, the autopsy revealed that Floyd had fentanyl and methamphetamine in his system at the time of his death. The autopsy also found that Floyd, 46, had “severe” heart disease, and that he died of a heart attack. The autopsy ruled that the fentanyl (“fentanyl intoxication”) and the meth might have contributed to his fatal heart attack. The autopsy also called his death a “homicide.”
At 4:38, one of the officers has Floyd against the police SUV, and tells him, “Stop falling down. Stay on your feet and face the car door.” Floyd is not complying with their orders. “Please, I want to talk with you man,” he shrieks at the police.
At 5:26, Floyd tells the police officers that he is “claustrophobic” — this, to say that he does not want to get into the police SUV. Remember that the supposedly claustrophic Floyd had been pulled out from behind the wheel of his own car. This claustrophobic man is not so afraid of confined spaces that he can’t stand being in a car. A reasonable person, by this point, might conclude that the clearly agitated Floyd is just talking trash to keep the cops from arresting him. He has been talking almost non-stop since the police first approached him, trying to convince the police to let him go.
At 5:38, Floyd denies for a second time that he is on drugs.
What’s striking too at this point is how polite and non-confrontational the police have been. They ask him repeatedly to get into the SUV.
“I’m gonna go in!” says Floyd, at 6:18.
“No, you’re not!” one of the cops replies — meaning in context, you’re saying you’re going to do this thing, but you are in fact refusing to do it.
They order him four or five more times to get into the SUV. He keeps refusing. He claims that he is afraid, that he’s claustrophobic, that he won’t be able to breathe. Voices of bystanders tell him to do what the cops tell him to do, to quit trying to “win.” Floyd says he’s “not trying to win.”
And then several more times, they order him to get in the car. One officer goes around to the other side, to try to pull Floyd in. Floyd offers to get into the front seat. No, an officer says. Floyd keeps resisting. At 7:48, he’s still resisting and shrieking, and the frustrated voice of an officer says, “Take a seat!”
Around 8:12, they finally put Floyd on the ground. He is continuing to protest, “I can’t breathe!”
That’s the end of the above video. We know what happened next.
That bodycam footage dramatically changes what we thought we knew about this story.
George Floyd did not just resist arrest. He spent at least eight minutes gasping and shrieking and carrying on like a lunatic, all the while refusing frequent, entirely legitimate orders by police. I had been under the impression that they had brutalized him from the beginning, throwing Floyd to the ground and kneeing him in the neck. That’s not remotely what happened. What happened is that these police officers gave Floyd chance after chance to obey. He was high on fentanyl and meth, though he denied twice that he was on anything, but his behavior was completely bizarre. Was it because he was high? Maybe. It might also be because he had four previous criminal convictions, and had done a prison stint for assault and robbery. What brought the cops in Minneapolis out that afternoon was that he was attempting to pass counterfeit bills in a local store. Floyd must have known that given his criminal record, he was going to be in a world of trouble over the fake currency.
The knee-in-the-neck procedure was only deployed by a cop after Floyd’s repeated refusal to comply with police orders simply to get into the police car. One can certainly argue about whether or not the neck restraint is wise and proper, but one cannot argue with the fact that it was permitted under Minneapolis police procedure:
- On a subject who is exhibiting active aggression, or;
- For life saving purposes, or;
- On a subject who is exhibiting active resistance in order to gain control of the subject; and if lesser attempts at control have been or would likely be ineffective.
- Neck restraints shall not be used against subjects who are passively resisting as defined by policy.
The new bodycam video shows that Floyd had been actively resisting arrest for at least eight minutes! If George Floyd at any point in that eight minutes had simply obeyed the police’s lawful, legitimate orders, he would be alive today. After watching that video, it is easy to see why Officer Derek Chauvin applied the neck restraint to him. And it is easy to understand why Chauvin believed Floyd was lying when he said, “I can’t breathe” — Floyd had been standing on the street yelling over and over that he couldn’t breathe as a way to convince the officers not to make him get into the back of the car.
Those cops have been overcharged for political reasons, and are going to walk free. Jason Whitlock, the black sports journalist, has watched the new footage, and says:
The behavior of the police officers seems appropriate and restrained given Floyd’s level of resistance and bizarre conduct. The footage reasonably explains how and why Floyd wound up on the ground with multiple officers restraining him.
The video does not justify officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes. But it does offer context why Chauvin would be reluctant to believe Floyd’s “I can’t breathe” cries. Nearly every word out of Floyd’s mouth was a desperate lie.
Here are the takeaways from the footage:
- Floyd’s behavior escalated a routine arrest into a possible abuse of force.
- The George Floyd case is not a race crime. No rational person can watch that footage and conclude the police were motivated by Floyd’s black race.
- It’s going to be virtually impossible to convict former officers Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao of any crime.
- It will be equally difficult to convict Chauvin of murder.
When these police officers go free — as they will deserve to, based on what is seen on these cameras — riots are going to sweep the nation. As Whitlock says, sports stars, the media, and many others have promulgated a sacred narrative in which Floyd was the innocent victim of racist police officers. It is not true. I think a decent case could be made that Derek Chauvin used excessive force, even though the neck restraint was legal under Minneapolis police guidelines. But murder? Not remotely. You’re not going to get a conviction for that.
George Floyd is dead today almost entirely because of George Floyd. Watch that bodycam video above (it ends just as he is on the ground with Chauvin’s knee in his neck), and tell me how there is any other reasonable conclusion? All he had to do was obey the police, who gave him chance after chance after chance. They did not come down on him hard, with the neck restraint, because he was black. They came down on him because he hysterically resisted arrest, for at least eight minutes.
The media’s narrative is false. All the George Floyd riots, all the George Floyd protests, have been based on a lie. That lie, though, has become so fundamental to the left’s narrative that disbelieving it will be impossible for countless people.
Watch the video. It really is shocking to realize how badly we have been misled by the media, by politicians, by celebrities, and by activists.
UPDATE: I have changed the headline, which was needlessly inflammatory, and for that I apologize. I still stand by my point: those cops are going to walk, because of the events leading up to Floyd’s death.
Floyd is dead because Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for eight minutes. That is a fact. Chauvin should have been charged with something — abuse of force? — but I don’t see how it constitutes murder. I am willing to be corrected, especially by those who understand the law.
What shocked me about this video was how wildly uncooperative Floyd was prior to the neck restraint. I had believed prior to this that the police had thrown him to the ground and subdued him with the neck restraint. I did not realize all that preceded the neck restraint. I think it is a good thing that neck restraints are being abandoned by police. If Minneapolis had not had that policy, Floyd would probably be alive today.
And if Floyd had not resisted arrest for eight minutes, he would be alive today. He shouldn’t be dead, period, but his death was not the simple case I thought it was prior to seeing this video. Context matters.
UPDATE.2: Again, I want to apologize for the former headline. It was bad, and didn’t actually reflect what I believe. I could be completely wrong in my judgment in this post — and if so, I am willing to be convinced of that. I have written here in the past very critically of Chauvin, and I still cannot understand how a police officer can kneel on a man’s neck for that long and justify it. I do want to point out what Dukeboy, a commenter here who is a retired cop, said a while back about the neck restraint: that it’s bad policy, but if it was official Minneapolis PD policy, then it’s going to be very hard to get a homicide conviction against Chauvin.
My friend Alan Jacobs is appalled by this post of mine, and says that the new video cam image changes nothing. Doesn’t it, though? It provides much greater context for the killing of Floyd. Maybe it’s just me, and maybe the problem is mine, but I honestly thought that the Minneapolis cops roughed Floyd up from the very beginning. I had no idea that he had resisted arrest so strenuously. It does not justify his death — and that is the regret I had about the initial headline: that it gave that impression — but I understand that it reasonably might have happened not from depraved indifference to human life, as I initially thought, but because of that Minneapolis police policy and Floyd’s bizarre behavior as police tried and tried and tried to arrest him without incident.
What the new video changes, at least to my way of thinking, is my understanding of how this incident escalated. What should the police have done, given how he resisted, and how long he resisted? Obviously they shouldn’t have put him in a neck restraint (I hope all police departments have done away with that by now), but seriously, what should have happened? What could they have done differently with a suspect who repeatedly refuses to get into the squad car, after having refused multiple times police requests prior to that moment? What would a reasonable action have been for the police in that instance?
Eight minutes and forty-six seconds of kneeling on a man’s neck was wrong, and would have been wrong even if Floyd hadn’t have died. But I don’t believe it’s legally murder, not in this context, and I believe the messy truth of this case is far from what we have been presented.
I find this new bodycam footage to be bad news, actually, because nearly everybody is convinced that Derek Chauvin murdered George Floyd, but I do not believe a jury will be convinced of that, based on the evidence. Understand that “murder” has a specific legal meaning; not all killing is “murder,” and there are degrees of murder. If Chauvin walks because he has been overcharged by prosecutors, and if his police colleagues walk, I believe there will be widespread rioting. People will believe that there was a clear-cut case of injustice, when the new bodycam footage shows otherwise.
I could be wrong. Convince me to change my mind.
The officers’ encounter with Floyd is precisely why police reformers talk about the importance of de-escalation training. The stressfulness of this entire encounter is ratcheted up every step of the way by the officers, even though the crime for which Floyd was being arrested was not violent and his responses to the police were not violent. The violence in this encounter came entirely from one direction: the police.
It’s easy to say after the fact that the encounter could have and should have been handled differently given the fatal outcome. But now that the body camera footage has made its way into the public domain, it’s even more clear that none of Floyd’s responses to the officers merited their aggression. The Minneapolis Police Department was right to fire them all. Chauvin has since been charged with second-degree murder and the other three with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
Even more clear. I respect Shackford’s judgment, though I don’t share it. It is interesting, though, that we could watch the same video and come to very different conclusions (though we both agree that Chauvin went too far).
UPDATE.4: I really hope all of you will watch the bodycam video before you comment one way or the other on what I have written here. You may end up thinking that Scott Shackford’s call is the correct one. But watch first.
I really hope that the media delve into this video, and give it a fair airing — not because I want them to reach a certain conclusion, but because the jury is ultimately going to see this and other bodycam videos, and figure it into their verdict. People should be aware that there is reason to believe that Chauvin et alia will walk, and not because the trial verdict is decided in advance.
I assumed too that the cops in Minneapolis had mistreated Floyd because he was black. I don’t see any evidence at all of that in the way they handled him for the eight minutes or so prior to his being put on the ground. They can still have used excessive force (Chauvin, I mean) without having been racist. I think any man, no matter what his color, who behaved as Floyd did while under arrest would have suffered the same fate with that group of officers.
UPDATE.5: A reader writes:
Two points:1) I thought the second video at the Daily Mail article (about 18 min long) was more revealing about the whole incident. Though that may have been because I had the audio up higher when I played it.2) I’m pretty convinced that the ultimate cause of Floyd’s death was the fentanyl. The toxicology study at the autopsy has his level at 11 ng/mL, together with 5.6 ng/mL of norfentanyl, which is what fentanyl metabolizes down to.There is a New Hampshire public health study on the internet of 505 fentanyl overdose deaths there. The blood level ranged from 0.75 to 113 ng/mL, with a *mean* of 9.96 ng. So, Floyd had a dose somewhat higher than the average NH fentanyl overdose fatality.But, moreover, given that the data range there is 0.75 all the way up to 113, that means that the *median* level is significantly below 9.96. Elsewhere, I’ve read that 7 ng is considered a “lethal dose.” He’s at 11, and earlier had had even more (hence the 5.6 ng norfentanyl). It seems to me this alone would explain the breathing difficulties. (It would also explain the flopping around: his nervous system was so checked out it could get his muscles to stand.)Anyway, just to add to this speculation, at one point in the audio Floyd says something about “I was hoopin’ earlier.” “Hooping” in the Urban Dictionary refers to the practice of transporting contraband in the rectum. There’s a loop or “hoop” on the capsule which is hooked for fishing out when you get to your destination.So, one possibility is that this was an accidental fentanyl overdose. Somehow in the retrieval process, some of the stuff got into his system, and since fentanyl is 100x stronger than heroin, that spelled his doom. He joins the 50,000+ other fentanyl overdose deaths in the U.S. each year. (Incidentally, he also had 100 ng/mL of morphine in his blood: heroin metabolizes down to morphine, so he also had a healthy dose of that in him earlier.)Note well: In the original cell phone videos which caused the riots, what we see is a cruel cop callously and almost casually snuffing the life out of a defenseless man. But when we consider that he’s actually dying from an overdose, everything changes. The cops have figured out he’s on something really, really bad (PCP? they wonder at one point). He’s expressed difficulty breathing. So: THEY HAVE CALLED FOR AN AMBULANCE. The reason they look so casually indifferent is because they are, in fact, just killing time while they wait for the ambulance to get there. There’s nothing else they can do for him. Every now and then Chauvin does move around a bit, repositioning his knee: but, on this reading, he does so because he is taking care NOT to obstruct Floyd’s breathing while he maintains the restraint.3) I suppose I have a third point. What we have with Floyd is something very much like what happened in Ferguson in 2015. There is a killing of a black man at the hands of the police, apparently. It becomes a cause celebre to advance the BLM movement. But there is a big big difference this time. In 2015, very quickly after the initial eruption, journalists brought to our attention that the underlying facts were in dispute and at least open to multiple interpretations. As additional information came into the public view, the majority of the public, within a week or two, concluded that, after all, it was a justified police shooting. That happened time and time again during BLM’s first run in 2015-16.This time, in 2020, it’s different. There were NO mitigating facts, NO suggestions in the media of alternative interpretations. EVEN THOUGH THE TOXICOLOGY STUDY WAS POSTED ON THE INTERNET WITHIN DAYS. I saw that report and I was asking everyone I knew whether they had seen anything in the press explaining what 11 ng of fentanyl meant. Was it a lot or a little? Was it just a trace amount from someone who had used last week? No one in the press “characterized” a fact in plain view. Time and time again we heard that he had some drugs in his system. But NO ONE said: Oh, by the way, that was a lethal dose of fentanyl in him, and unless he got on Narcan immediately, he was done for. So the big “political” thing I take away from this episode is that the media ecosystem has changed significantly from 2015. Because everyone is now in lockstep to destroy Trump, really very elementary fact-finding isn’t happening. (For that matter, I’ve not read anything about the night club where both Floyd and Chauvin worked: Might that have been where the counterfeiting operation was located? It apparently burned down in the rioting. But nowhere have I seen any journalists interviewing people who knew Floyd or knew the night club, etc. It’s all a mystery. It seems the journalists wanted to keep the “context” completely out of the picture.)Now, you might also say that the reaction this time was more explosive because there was video, whereas there wasn’t in the Ferguson case. And the original video looks very, very bad.I have two observations about that:a) In the 1992 Rodney King episode, I seem to recall the original video showing the cops just whaling on King in a horrible way. But then, a week later, additional video came out showing what happened before the original video. And it showed King getting Tasered once or twice to no effect and charging at officers and otherwise being extremely dangerous. So some suspicion about “what happened before” the cell phone video we had in the Floyd case should have been in reporters’ minds.b) But, also, the authorities in Minneapolis have had this body cam video from the very beginning. They CHOSE to withhold it from public view. It seems whoever was responsible for that decision is a moral criminal, and they should be called out. Had we seen this video in the first days after the encounter, I don’t think cities would have burned all across America.
One of the things that activists fighting police brutality have been asking for is police bodycams. I think the suspicion was that the videos from this would show widespread unlawful use of force by police. Instead more often than not, the footage shows the police response was appropriate. Whether this is because the presence of cameras inhibit the police hasn’t been conclusively decided. Instead it is clear that many persons who made unjustified claims of inappropriate use of force by police, have had to retract their claims.
What the George Floyd incident showed is that there is a tremendous desire on the part of certain people to believe a specific narrative about the police and that images when taken out of context can support that narrative.
The bodycam footage that you saw clearly support those who advocate for investigations to be completed before acting. Here because of the rioting mobs (on a nationwide basis) the D.A. wanted to indict as soon as possible.
The real question that you have to answer, is how do we get persons who were sufficiently outraged by the knee on that neck that they assumed the context was what you also thought, to wait and withhold judgment. That requires not just a better educated citizenry but also requires a responsible press, wise local elected leaders and a desire to understand rather than to quickly judge. Good luck with all that in these tempestuous times.
Well, I assumed like many people who saw the initial video that Floyd was the victim of a depraved and brutal police officer, and the depraved indifference of those cops standing around him. I grant that what may be determined in the trial is exactly that. These new videos, though, show a far more complex situation than I thought was the case. I still don’t understand how it justifies eight minutes and forty-six seconds of a knee on a man’s neck, but I see a lot more nuance than I did before. Will it be exculpatory in a court of law? I think so, but I don’t know. We’ll see.
Another reader writes:
The George Floyd post was so bad. Just please stop doing these posts.
He didn’t say anything more than that, so I wrote to ask him what was “so bad” about it, and what he meant by “these posts.” I’m not trolling him — I really want to know. I have acknowledged that the initial headline was bad, insensitive, and misleading; I took it down and apologized for it. As always with my posts, I write things that can be criticized, and I do change my mind when readers show me where I made a mistake in my perceptions or my logic. Again, if you think this is a bad post, reader, I genuinely invite you to explain why, and try to change my mind. I’m listening!
Do not think that I am saying here that George Floyd deserved to die. He did not. But that doesn’t mean the cop who appears to have killed him committed homicide. I think it is reasonable to ask — to ask! — to what extent the high dosage of fentanyl in Floyd’s system played in weakening his ability to breathe, and stressing his already damaged heart. A fentanyl overdose slows the breathing rate. Yet Floyd remains extremely agitated throughout this video. What’s going on?
UPDATE.7: Sorry for all these updates, but I believe that they are important to many of you. The reader who said this post is “so bad” clarified:
The issue with George Floyd is not the minutiae of the law. It’s the moral matter of the killing of a vulnerable person. Your post neglects that principle which I know that you respect in other circumstances especially when related to sexuality.
I appreciate the clarification, but I sincerely don’t understand it. Let’s think about it for a second.
It’s not “the minutiae of the law” we’re talking about here. It’s a really big deal, morally and legally, whether or not the police officer Chauvin is at fault in Floyd’s death. Legally, it has to do with whether or not he will go to jail for years, or go free. Morally, was this an unintentional killing, or was there fault? I don’t believe that Chauvin intended to kill Floyd, but Floyd died under his knee. Where is the moral fault here, and what is the nature of the fault? I’m not asking rhetorically; I really want to know, and it’s important to know.
The context of what preceded the knee on the neck matters, I think, in terms of determining legal and moral culpability. The cops in this case tried patiently, in multiple ways, to subdue Floyd, who was under arrest. He resisted arrest hysterically. We know now that he was high on drugs, and the police thought so too — that’s why they called the ambulance. The fatal error Chauvin made was not realizing that Floyd was dying under his knee. Floyd had been hollering since virtually the moment he was approached by the police, and was complaining that he couldn’t breathe even before he was on the ground.
Was it because he was high, and the fentanyl was suppressing his breathing? Was it because he was having a panic attack? Both? Was it because he was trying to fool the police?
What is reasonable for the police to have believed? What was a reasonable course of action, under the police procedure? These aren’t side issues. They are both morally and legally significant. A city burned because people believed that a cop murdered George Floyd. You’ll get no argument from me that Floyd ought to still be alive, and that no cop should kneel on a man’s neck for nearly nine minutes (or ever). But we are asked to determine if, in the specific case of Derek Chauvin and these other officers, they are to some degree guilty of criminal homicide.
Alan Jacobs, as I mentioned before, hates this post. He wrote, in part:
The newly released footage might — might — embarrass some of the people who have tried to paint Floyd as some kind of saint, papering over his history. But beyond I don’t see how the footage changes anything. I still think exactly what I thought before I saw that footage: Non-saints, indeed even habitual criminals, don’t deserve what was done to George Floyd. Behaving bizarrely, “shrieking and carrying on like a lunatic,” is not a capital offense. Some of us might even say that a person who is clearly not in his right senses deserves compassion. Instead George Floyd got death. Eight minutes of patient, calm, unrelenting asphyxiation.
He did get death, that is true. But intent matters immensely in murder cases. First-degree murder is murder that is premeditated. Chauvin was not charged with first-degree murder, because there was obviously no premeditation here. Chauvin has been charged with second-degree murder, which under Minnesota law requires intentional killing, but without premeditation. Do we believe that Chauvin intended to kill Floyd? If prosecutors can’t prove that, then Chauvin walks.
It is a judgment call as to whether or not the way those police officers responded to George Floyd was reasonable under existing law and police procedure. All the facts surrounding the event are relevant to making that decision. If Alan and others take what preceded the asphyxiation into account, and still think it doesn’t matter, I respect that decision, but I am not convinced. They may be right! But I believe the newly released footage really does make a difference in demonstrating (or failing to demonstrate) intent to kill.
I don’t know whether the new footage will change the thinking of a jury, but it doesn’t change my thinking one iota. If George Floyd had tried to attack Derek Chauvin, then maybe; but what I see is a pathetic, desperate, sick, terrified man. The cops could have waited him out. They chose to kill him instead.
And as for Rod’s claim that “if Floyd had not resisted arrest for eight minutes, he would be alive today,” that is true in exactly the same way, and to exactly the same degree, that “If she hadn’t been wearing that short skirt she wouldn’t have been raped” is true.
I disagree. One popular narrative that emerged from this case is that George Floyd is emblematic of police callousness towards black people. The new videos give no evidence at all that Floyd was treated the way he was by those cops because of his race. Furthermore, if the public is under the impression that these cops, and cops in general, commonly treat black people (and others too) with so much depravity that they have no problem killing them with asphyxiation, the Floyd case does not justify that conclusion, in my view. The neck restraint hold was only used on Floyd after between eight and ten minutes of the police trying to subdue him by other, less brutal means. They had given up on trying to arrest him, and were holding him until an ambulance arrived. There is nothing wrong with wearing a short skirt. There is something very wrong with resisting arrest. It does not justify a criminal suspect’s death, but when one refuses for between eight and ten minutes to obey police officers, it escalates the chance that something very bad could happen.
Why is it important to observe that if Floyd had obeyed the police officers, he would be alive today? Because a lot of people are claiming that Floyd had no chance, because these officers had it out for him. That’s just not true. If people come to believe that merely being arrested means that the police will kill you, they may foolishly — and even fatally — decided that resisting arrest is a matter of life and death.
UPDATE.8: My friend Leah Libresco e-mails (and gives me permission to post this):
I agree with Alan’s view of your George Floyd post, and I want to lay out why, since you’ve asked folks who disagree to explain why.The first issue is that your post seems to teeter between asking whether Chauvin is at fault legally or at fault morally. Given the state of our current laws (particularly qualified immunity) there are many cases where cops are in the wrong morally and in the clear legally. In your post, you linger on the legal question without asking whether the law is a good tutor here.But my bigger objection is part of a pattern on your posts on race. You’ve had a number of posts on diversity and inclusion initiatives as soft totalitarianism. You’ve also had some posts on the legacy of racism in your hometown, and how long it takes for those wounds to heal (and that denying their existence is further salt in the wounds).It doesn’t feel like those parts of your blog speak to each other. Racism is a real, persistent evil in our country. And it has its effects not just through animus but through inertia. Racist structures continue to do harm, even when people aren’t aware of their origins and don’t have harmful intent. My high school, for instance, has the school district boundaries drawn in a racist way many years ago, and they still have not been changed.When you hold up examples primarily of the excesses of the social justice movement, but not the evils it is responding to, I think you let down your readers. We’re called as Christians to bind up wounds. If you don’t like how that’s being done, point your readers at people who you admire who are doing this well, so they can be part of good work.I was glad to see that your new book is split between pointing at the problem and giving examples of solutions. I think your blog and your readers would be well served by rebalancing your writing to point more toward what you admire than what you abhor. And remember, people act for the sake of a perceived good. Many of the people you disagree with are grappling with real evils, and you will do more to tell the whole truth when you acknowledge that they are motivated by a desire for justice, not just power.
Rod: Long time reader. Please do not use my name. I have a close family member in law enforcement who has followed the Floyd case closely. This family member has 11+ years experience, first as a street cop and now as a detective who deals a lot with gangs and drug dealers. Within days of the original incident, he read the toxicology report – he’s very familiar with them – and said Floyd did not die from the neck hold but from the drugs in his system. Comments on your article:
(1) “He would have been in a world of trouble for the counterfeit bill.”
– No he wouldn’t have been, but his behavior was typical of most drug addicts stopped by police. They will do or say anything not to go to jail – even for a night – because they don’t want to experience the detox of coming off hard drugs.
(2) If he’d listened to the cops, he would still be alive.
– Not necessarily. Given the high level of fentanyl in his system, Floyd was likely in the process of dying prior to being put on the ground. The added stress may have contributed to the heart attack, but I think he was already ramping himself up to the point where he may have died in the back of the police car anyway. This will be a major point for the defense in the trial.
I’m by no means an expert but I’ve been in Corrections for over 14 years.Hearing a police officer stating,”Stop resisting!” often means nothing. The phrase is often used as a “cya” to help justify an officer’s actions. Witnesses (or those viewing the body cam video) hear it and assume the prisoner is, in fact, resisting when that isn’t necessarily true. At least not to the degree that the officer is making it sound.Obviously, can’t prove that this is the case in this situation but…As to Chauvin’s state of mind? I don’t think this was racial. Seeing his demeanor, I think he would have behaved in the same way if Floyd were white. Just a jaded cop who doesn’t see the people he deals with as people.
There’s one big error in Alan Jacobs’ note to you that you posted in an Update. Jacobs says (and so do you) that Floyd died of asphyxiation. But the autopsy report clearly says that he did NOT die of asphyxiation. There’s apparently something that happens to the eyes in those cases (a doctor friend tells me), and Floyd’s body didn’t have that. Nor was there any damage to the trachea or bruising to the neck. There was a broken rib, but that happened post-mortem during the examination. No, the coroner finds the cause of death to be cardiac arrest. Floyd’s heart stopped, for whatever reason.
Again, the coroner’s report was publicly posted a couple days after the death of Floyd, and it clearly says he didn’t die of asphyxiation. That here we are, months later, and Allan Jacobs (and you) still think he did shows just how thoroughly the media has failed to report the facts.
I’m sure you are inundated with comments, but I didn’t see any making this point. Part of what the prosecution will have to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, is that the officers were intending to commit a felony or attempting to inflict bodily harm upon the person. The new body cam videos (particularly the longer one) really muddy these waters.Part of what was so shocking about the original video was the way that George Floyd cried out for help, and the officers (particularly Chauvin) didn’t react. He yells, says he can’t breathe, calls for his mother, asks for help, says he’s going to die, and the officers don’t do anything. They keep pinning him. My original reaction was the same as the bystanders who filmed it – “are the officers insane?? Why don’t they let him up? He’s begging for help??” This is one reason it seems so cruel – and murderous. It’s the fact that he’s in clear distress, and begging for help, and the officers continue to pin him.But when viewing the longer video, their behavior no longer appears to be cruel. All of the things George Floyd does in the original video while being pinned – calls for help, says he’s going to die, says he can’t breathe – he does all of those things, repeatedly, before he’s on the ground. He does it standing, and he does it in the police car. He is screaming in clear distress and pain long before he goes to the ground. You hear the officers reassuring him that he’ll be ok in the police car – and that they’ll roll the windows down for him. He continues to plead with them and yell for help.By the time he goes to the ground, it is evident that something else is going on with him. He is in the throes of some sort of event – a panic attack or a heart attack or something else, that is independent of the police. Once he is pinned, you hear a police officer say that an ambulance is on the way. You hear officer Tou Thao tell the onlookers to stay off drugs (a calloused statement, certainly, but it shows his state of mind that he believed Floyd was in the throes of a drug-related crisis). It seems clear that the officers believed Floyd was having some kind of crisis, and were trying to restrain him until the ambulance arrived. He died before it got there.Does this mean Chauvin didn’t kill him? No, by no means. It means the scene is complicated. Floyd may have died because of some combination of drugs, heart attack, and pressure from Chauvin’s knee. But it’s clear that he was in distress – maybe mortal distress, well before he was pinned to the ground. It’s also clear that the officers were not callously holding him down, despite his cries for help. They were holding him down because he was in crisis, and they were trying to subdue him until help arrived. Is that what killed him? Maybe. But it’s not nearly as clear (and as cruel) as we all believed after just seeing the first video.
Please don’t use my real name – there are issues where taking a stand is worth risking a job, but this isn’t one of them.I’ve been a practicing attorney for 12 years, mostly doing civil litigation but with a little bit of criminal defense work. The big point you and many others, left and right, have missed about the new bodycam footage is that it’s likely to get Chauvin and the other officers acquitted–not because it shows Floyd resisting, but because combined with the autopsy results, it’s likely to prevent the government from proving causation beyond a reasonable doubt. You wrote: “Floyd is dead because Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for eight minutes. That is a fact.” But it’s not. A competent defense attorney will likely be able to show that there is at least reasonable doubt as to that question.This is Criminal Law 101. To get a conviction, the government has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt each element of the charged crime. For any degree of murder or manslaughter, one element of the charged crime is that the defendant’s unlawful actions (generally intentional actions of violence for a murder charge, negligent actions for a manslaughter charge) caused the victim’s death. Both aspects of causation have to apply. If I legally set off a firework in my backyard, and a neighbor has PTSD and dies from a heart attack caused by a resulting panic attack, I haven’t committed manslaughter–the act I took that caused the death was legal and not negligent. Similarly, if I shoot up my neighbor’s house, but the neighbor isn’t home, and just happened to die of a heart attack on the other side of town, I may have committed attempted murder, but I haven’t committed murder.How does this play out in the George Floyd case? The key fact from the new bodycam footage isn’t that he was resisting arrest, but that he already stated that he couldn’t breathe and he was going to die before Derek Chauvin even entered the picture. The autopsy showed, as other commenters have pointed out, that Floyd had a lethal dose of fentanyl in his body together with other drugs, and that his windpipe did not suffer any trauma. It should be fairly easy for the officer’s defense attorneys to find a credible expert to explain that the bodycam footage, combined with the autopsy results, shows that Floyd died from a stress-and-drug-induced heart attack, not from asphyxiation. And the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard applies to this issue as well, so if there’s a reasonable question in the jury’s mind as to causation, they should acquit.Now, it’s arguable that Floyd wouldn’t have died if he hadn’t been arrested at all so he hadn’t been put under the stress that led to his panic attack, but that’s where the unlawful act part of the discussion comes in. There’s no question from the bodycam footage that the police acted lawfully at least up until the point where Chauvin puts his knee on Floyd’s neck. If Floyd was already in the process of dying at that point–or at least if the jury believes there is a reasonable question as to whether Floyd could have survived had Chauvin not put his knee on Floyd’s neck–then there’s no conviction for either murder or manslaughter. Now, if you look at that bodycam footage, and an expert credibly explains that the autopsy results together with Floyd’s actions on the video show that Floyd’s death was not caused by Chauvin’s knee, do you think you could conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that Chauvin caused Floyd’s death?That doesn’t necessarily make Chauvin’s actions right, either in a legal or moral sense, but we should be prepared for the fact that he and the other officers will likely be acquitted. And journalists especially should not be stating as fact that Chauvin caused Floyd’s death, based on the evidence available today.
I’m not surprised most people haven’t changed their minds about the George Floyd incident. What troubles me most is that nobody’s approaching this issue with any greater nuance than they did at the beginning. One would think rational, reasonable people would look at an issue differently when presented with the facts for the first time, but it seems like people are choosing to double down instead (perhaps because And I’d love to say it’s on both sides, but it’s really not.A common refrain from those who think Floyd was murdered goes something like this: “The video shows he was clearly mentally ill and officers need to be trained on how to properly handle these types of people.” There’s a massive hole in this statement – it takes years of schooling and real-world experience for a psychiatrist to properly diagnose mental illness. Yet, somehow, the critics of police seem to believe officers must be able to make this diagnosis on the spot without possessing anything close to the education and training of a licensed, experience psychiatrist.This matters quite a bit, because credentialing is the basis for the credibility we bestow upon and the trust we place in the professionals of our society. The idea that merely recognizing the signs of mental illness alone is enough for police to handle the supposedly mentally ill goes against every standard that we hold other professions to. You simply cannot expect cops, whose first duty is to establish order, to make potential life-and-death decisions on limited exposure to something ultimately outside their scope. It’s the same reason why Emergency Medical Technicians can treat illness and injury, but they cannot diagnose, which means they cannot make decisions on the basis of something they’re not credentialed nor professionally qualified to make a judgment about. When it comes to conditions they recognize (like mental illness) but aren’t qualified to handle, cops do what any other responsible citizen would do – defer to the professionals who are qualified. As you pointed out, that’s exactly what these officers did, they called an ambulance to deal with the possibility Floyd was dealing with a medical issue.Which leads to my second point – even if George Floyd was truly mentally ill, how can anybody, psychiatrist or otherwise, help somebody who cannot or refuses to be restrained? As someone who worked as a first responder, we’re certainly trained to deal with people who are combative, mentally ill, non-compliant, etc. However, unless somebody was about to jump out of the back of an ambulance, if somebody became overly combative and resistant, we were instructed universally to not restrain them and call for police. There are many reasons for this, but the biggest reason is that cops are trained and legally permitted to use force to restrain and subdue people. Emergency Medical Services, doctors, psychiatrists, and social workers aren’t and, at least on paper, only have about the same rights as a citizen with regards to self-defense. I know of no EMS worker, medical professional, nor social worker, who would try to treat someone like George Floyd if he was behaving like that. If you can’t treat someone safely, you can’t treat them at all. This isn’t the battlefield.Third, someone I spoke with pointed out that people tend to get anxious when approached by police and cops need to understand that. That’s all and well, except it’s clear by now that Floyd was under the influence of something, which meant that his anxiety wasn’t that of someone in an otherwise reasonable state of mind. But, more importantly, being anxious nor under the influence doesn’t justify resisting arrest. A few commentators, like The Daily Show‘s Trevor Noah, peddle this argument that cops should take a “hands-off,” “diplomatic” approach when it comes to people under the influence or in mental distress. This argument possesses zero logic, of course – someone who’s either under the influence or in mental distress, by definition, cannot be reasoned with and the more time an officer takes to resolve the situation means more time for something to go wrong. Furthermore, it makes no sense to say, “Cops make me anxious!” and then say, “Cops should try to calm me down first!” How can somebody/something that makes you panic also be the thing that calms you down? The only argument here seems to be that cops shouldn’t do anything and I feel like many people would honestly prefer that. This is a set-up for police to fail and hardly constitutes reasoned attempt at reform.Fourth police officers, often deal with all sorts of crazy. But not everyone’s mentally ill. Mental illness is a clinical condition and it’s not the same as just being an irrational, unreasonable person. We all have our moments where we lose our minds to one degree or another. If these critics of police saw the types of people that they deal with, they’d be calling them all mentally ill. Going back to my first and third points, the term “mental illness” is a medically-defined term and shouldn’t be bandied about. We shouldn’t set a precedent where the unqualified begin diagnosing people and where criminals can exploit mental illness as way to get out of arrest or a justification for resisting.In closing, the video of the arrest doesn’t change my belief that a case for murder could still be formulated against Derek Chauvin. The fact he laid his knee for over eight minutes, even after Floyd went unconscious, is highly problematic and speaks to whether police have any sort of liability for the well-being of those in their custody. The independent autopsy conducted by Michael Baden indicates asphyxiation was involved, meaning that Chauvin did contribute to the death of Floyd. The problem, of course, is that political activist-masquerading-as-
prosecutor Keith Ellison upgraded the charges from 3rd degree to 2nd degree murder and the manner in which he did so, according to Andrew McCarthy, suggests that the initial arrest of Floyd was felonious and, therefore, unjustifiable. Keep in mind, Ellison was the reason why the bodycam footage was never released. Anyone want to venture a guess as to why?While my mind hasn’t changed overall, the case I can make for murder has become somewhat muted. I have no problem conceding that I, too, got caught up in the maelstrom and outrage the initial video (which is still difficult to watch) caused, as did millions of other Americans. Many of those who posted black squares on social media shortly after Floyd’s death suddenly seem to have nothing to say about either his death or the protests, leading me to believe, charitably, even they’re not sure what to think anymore. Which leads me to conclude that scientist-philosopher Sam Harris was 100% correct when he described the protests and rioting as a “moral panic.” The fact that nobody seems to want to even look at this factually and evenhandedly and take doing so as an existential threat to the well-being of Black people only further proves that this is all indeed a dangerous and prolonged moral panic.
An official autopsy declared cause of death “sudden respiratory arrest following physical struggling restraint due to cocaine-induced excited delirium.” The legal team hired Dr. Michael Baden, who testified that Lewis died from “asphyxia caused by neck compression.” Baden is the same medical examiner who was hired by the George Floyd family, and made a similar finding. Baden is also the same medical examiner who was hired for Eric Garner, and declared death by “compression of the neck”. Baden is also the same medical examiner who was hired by the Brown family to examine Michael Brown, and Baden found that Brown died while surrendering, an assertion totally disproven by a DoJ investigation spearheaded by AG Eric Holder under Obama. Suffice it to say, Michael Baden has a very specific interest, and a very tenuous track record. The Court will be aware of this when weighing the autopsies.