Man who begged 'Please, I can't breathe' dies in Minneapolis police custody

Several minutes pass after the man stops struggling or even talking before this cop lifts his body weight.

Several minutes pass after the man stops struggling or even talking before this cop lifts his body weight. Facebook

Disturbing video of a black man begging Minneapolis Police officers to let him breathe circulated online Monday night, and the man's death is now the subject of a state and federal investigation.

A bystander clip captured outside the Cup Foods store on Chicago Avenue in south Minneapolis starts with the man already on the ground, in handcuffs, and groaning under the weight of a cop's knees on his back and neck.

"Please, man," the man says. "I can't breathe."

"Bro, you got him down, let him breathe at least," says another man, who sounds like he adds: "one of my homies died the same way." 

"My stomach hurts, my neck hurts, everything hurts," the man on the ground says. And later: "They're gonna kill me, man." 

[UPDATE: The man in the video has since been identified as George Floyd, and the officer choking him as Derek Chauvin. According to an announcement Tuesday afternoon, Chauvin and three other police officers have been fired for their role in Floyd's death.]

As the man says and struggles less, a gathered crowd continues asking for mercy, with one man saying the cop pinning the man down using his knees is "bogus." Roughly three minutes into the 10-minute video recording, the man stops moving altogether.

Witnesses become more vocal -- "look at him!" one cries; "he's not responsive right now!" says another -- but the cop pinning the man doesn't give up, as a second officer stands in front of the crowd, defiant, at one point saying: "Don't do drugs, guys."

Minutes after the man has stopped moving, the cop continues to apply his body weight. Paramedics arrive, and one checks the man's pulse. The cop with his knees on the man doesn't take his weight off until a stretcher is pulled over. By that point, the black man has not moved in roughly four minutes, and his limp body is dragged and lifted onto the stretcher and then into an ambulance.

Click here to watch the witness video as it was uploaded to Facebook.

The man, whose identity has not been released, was declared dead at a nearby hospital soon after his arrest, according to the Star Tribune, which, paraphrasing Minneapolis Police spokesman John Elder, describes the man as having "suffered a medical episode while struggling with officers."

Elder said an ambulance was called because the man was in "medical distress" at the time of his arrest.

His death will be investigated by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and the FBI, with the federal agency apparently joining at the behest of the local police. "As we started digging into this and seeing more we realized that the FBI needed to aid in this investigation," Elder said, according to the Strib, which adds, again paraphrasing Elder, that the cop's maneuver is "not a department-authorized chokehold."

Elder says the incident started when police responded to reports of an alleged forgery at a nearby business and found a man who matched the suspect's description.

Names of the officers involved have not been released, and they have been placed on administrative leave.