WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump on Wednesday addressed the death of a Minneapolis black man who died after he was restrained by a white police officer, telling reporters he planned to receive a “full report” on the incident that he described as a “very sad event.”
During a tour of the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where the president was scheduled to watch the historic SpaceX rocket launch before it was postponed due to inclement weather, Trump was asked whether the four officers involved in the incident should be prosecuted.
“We’re going to look at it and we’re going to get a report tomorrow when we get back. And we’re going to get a very full report,” Trump said in his first public comments about Floyd’s death. “But a very sad day.”
Trump later tweeted that the FBI and Department of Justice were investigating the matter at his request and offered his condolences to Floyd’s family.
“I have asked for this investigation to be expedited and greatly appreciate all of the work done by local law enforcement,” he added. “My heart goes out to George’s family and friends. Justice will be served!”
George Floyd, 46, died Monday evening, shortly after video footage showed him handcuffed, gasping for air and saying “I can’t breathe,” as a white officer knelt on his neck. The video, taken by a bystander, circulated online and prompted protests in Minneapolis Tuesday.
The Minneapolis Police Department fired four officers involved in the incident while the FBI and state law enforcement said they were investigating the death. Thousands of protesters demanding justice for Floyd gathered at the intersection where Floyd was restrained Tuesday. The protests started peacefully, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, but tensions escalated as the group reached a police precinct.
Officers dressed in riot gear fired tear gas and nonlethal bullets at crowds of protesters who were seen hurling rocks and water bottles, according to the Star-Tribune.
Police identified the officers Wednesday as Derek Chauvin, Thomas Lane, Tou Thao and J. Alexander Kueng. Attorney Tom Kelly said he was representing Chauvin, the officer seen with his knee on Floyd’s neck.
Trump’s comments came as Floyd’s sister, Bridgett Floyd, urged the police department to take further action while Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey called for criminal charges to be filed.
“I would like for those officers to be charged with murder because that’s exactly what they did. They murdered my brother; he was crying for help,” Bridgett Floyd told NBC’s “Today” on Wednesday.
The case recalls the 2014 death of Eric Garner, an unarmed black man who died in New York City after he was placed in a chokehold by a police officer. Garner was heard in a video of the incident telling police, “I can’t breathe,” a phrase that became a rallying cry in the Black Lives Matter movement.
Floyd’s death has garnered attention from dozens of activists, politicians and celebrities who expressed outrage over the incident.
Former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, called the incident a “horrific killing” and called for a “thorough” FBI investigation.
“Watching his life be taken in the same manner, echoing nearly the same words of Eric Garner more five years ago – ‘I can’t breathe’ – is a tragic reminder that this was not an isolated incident but a part of an ingrained systemic cycle of injustice that still exists in this country,” Biden said Wednesday.