Statement from Attorney General Ellison on Death of George Floyd
May 26, 2020 (SAINT PAUL) — George Floyd mattered. Somebody loved him. His life was important. It had value. He lost it yesterday in an encounter with law enforcement that once again raises pain and trauma for so many people.
The available video appears to show George Floyd vocally pleading for his life. He appears to be informing officers that he couldn’t breathe while the officer’s knee was on his neck. He appeared to present no danger. Video shows onlookers who were disturbed pleading for the officer to give medical attention. Those calls appear to have gone unheeded as Mr. Floyd became unresponsive.
Whenever someone dies at the hand of law enforcement or state power, we owe it to everyone affected to investigate thoroughly. Even though video exists, a careful investigation is necessary and has already begun. If you were on scene, have any information or evidence, or were involved in any way, I encourage you to come forward now and cooperate fully with that investigation.
After the incident is investigated, it will be referred for a determination about prosecution. The Attorney General’s office does not have direct prosecutorial jurisdiction in the matter: that belongs with the Hennepin County Attorney’s office. However, my office stands ready to assist in any way we can. I am confident that the values of accountability, transparency, and justice will be upheld. I will be a force for them.
The reason that Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington and I formed our working group on police-involved deadly-force encounters is to prevent tragic occurrences like this one. While we’re still finding the facts, the recommendations in the report are even more compelling at a moment like this.
The issue of police-community relations has been a point of controversy and pain for the whole of American history. It involves centuries of trauma. In the past several years alone, almost every part of Minnesota has lived through a fatal encounter with law enforcement. George Floyd’s death raises that trauma yet again for so many people.
It is legitimate for community members to be outraged by George Floyd’s death. During the COVID-19 pandemic, I strongly encourage everyone who wishes to exercise their First Amendment rights to protest to do so safely: use social distancing and wear a mask. It is an act of care for yourselves and your community to do so.
I send my deepest condolences to the family and loved ones of George Floyd. We will seek justice and we will find it.