Every piece of new evidence released to the public surrounding the death of George Floyd reveals the disregard many cops have for Black life as well as how Black people are immediately perceived as criminal. For the first time, police body camera footage has been made available for in-person viewing and what that footage shows is that Floyd’s very humanity was barely even considered while he was in police custody.
Last week, The Root reported on the release of audio transcripts taken from the body cameras of former officers J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas K. Lane—two of the three officers who are charged with aiding and abetting murder in the second-degree for helping Derek Chauvin restrain Floyd in a way that allegedly caused his death. Those transcripts show that Floyd repeatedly told officers he couldn’t breathe and that he pleaded for his life because he knew he was about to die. He also repeatedly expressed to officers his claustrophobia, anxiety and trauma stemming from past interactions with police officers.
What the transcripts didn’t show that the video footage does, is that Floyd’s voice can be heard becoming increasingly weak as he begged for mercy and apologized to officers over and over again for the frantic state he was in. It also revealed that mere seconds went by between the moment Lane approached Floyd, to the moment he stuck a gun in Floyd’s face. Finally, the video reveals that Chauvin’s knee may have been placed on Floyd’s neck for longer than what’s been previously reported and that, not only did Floyd repeatedly say the words, “I can’t breathe,” but those happened to be his very last words.
CNN reports that the video—which hasn’t been released to the public but was made available for in-person viewing by appointment only—was filed into evidence last week by Lane’s attorney, who submitted it to back a motion to dismiss the charges against Lane arguing that the footage shows Lane repeatedly asked Chauvin if Floyd should be repositioned to avoid “excited delirium.”
But, according to CNN, the video also shows that, after speaking with the Cup Foods clerk who called officers to the scene alleging that Floyd tried to pay for goods with a fake $20 bill, Lane immediately went over to Floyd’s car, knocked on his window with his flashlight startling Floyd, then, seconds later, pointing his gun at Floyd and shouting at him to “Put your fucking hands up right now!” All of that happened within 36 seconds of him leaving the clerk to approach his suspect.
Around three minutes into the video, Floyd is forcibly pulled from the car as officers struggle to handcuff him. This was after he pleaded with officers while sobbing as they attempt to walk him to the squad car.
The video seen by CNN shows that a big struggle ensues when officers Lane and Kueng attempt to put Floyd in the squad car. Kueng is physically trying to push Floyd in the car as Lane goes around to the other side of the vehicle and reaches in to try and pull him as Floyd is yelling throughout. This is the first “I can’t breathe” we hear from Floyd through what sounded like a gargled breath.
Eventually Floyd falls out on Lane’s side and it’s at this point the other officers, Thao and Chauvin, show up on video, and then Chauvin, Kueng, and Lane work to restrain Floyd. This is when Floyd falls to the familiar location seen in the cell phone video, and about 11 minutes and 23 seconds into Lane’s body camera Chauvin’s knee goes on Floyd’s neck.
Floyd has been cuffed for nearly 8 minutes now and while already restrained Chauvin appears to increase pressure on Floyd’s neck, shifting his torso from an upright position into a curling down motion.
Around 16 minutes into the footage, Floyd’s last words are heard, “Man, I can’t breathe.” Paramedics are seen with Floyd a little over 9 minutes after the knee went on Floyd’s neck, and a minute later Floyd’s limp, completely motionless body is loaded into the ambulance.
According to NBC News, there are discrepancies between what prosecutors reported the length of time Chauvin held his knee on Floyd’s neck to be and what the time stamp on the video shows. Prosecutors initially reported that Floyd’s neck was under Chauvin’s knee for 8 minutes and 46 seconds—a length of time that became a rallying cry for activists, demonstrators and even comedian Dave Chappelle—then, weeks later, they changed that length of time to seven minutes and 46 seconds. But NBC reports that the video shows that time was closer to 9½ minutes.
Another thing that the video reportedly shows—and a thing the transcripts released last week made abundantly clear—is that, even in his panicked state, Floyd made every attempt to cooperate with the officers’ orders to the best of his ability.
The two officers lead Floyd across the street toward the squad car, search his pockets and then try to convince him to sit down in the squad.
Floyd tells them that he just got over COVID-19, that he’s claustrophobic and has anxiety. Floyd begs the officers not to put him in the back, at one point telling them he’ll get into the squad if they let him count to three.
A man on the street tells Floyd, “You can’t win,” and that he should just get in the car.
Floyd responds, “I’m not trying to win.”
About a minute later, Kueng tries to push Floyd into the squad while Lane pulls him from the other side. Floyd is splayed across the back seat, frantic and yelling. At least twice while being forced into the squad, Floyd says, “I can’t breathe,” and tells the officers he’ll lie on the ground instead.
According to CNN, a “coalition of media companies” filed a motion Monday calling for the video evidence to be fully released to the public and for media companies to be allowed to publish it.