Minneapolis mayor: 'Why is the man who killed George Floyd not in jail?'

Elisha Fieldstadt

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey on Wednesday called for charges to be filed swiftly against the officer who for more than eight minutes pinned George Floyd's neck under his knee before Floyd died.

Image: George Floyd (Courtesy photo)

"Why is the man who killed George Floyd not in jail?" Frey asked. "If you had done it or I had done it, we would be behind bars right now."

"We cannot turn a blind eye," Frey said, calling on Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman to file charges against the officer two days after the incident.

Full coverage of George Floyd's death and protests around the country

Frey said the evidence he has seen is the same evidence people around the country have seen — a video showing a white police officer with his knee on Floyd's neck as Floyd pleaded, "Please, please, please, I can't breathe."

Four officers involved in the incident were fired Tuesday night. Floyd's family is also calling for them to face charges, and hundreds of protesters Tuesday night filled the intersection where Floyd was pinned, carrying banners that read "I can't breathe" and "Jail killer KKKops."

Frey said he's most concerned right now with the officer who kept his knee firmly on Floyd's neck despite pleas from Floyd himself and troubled bystanders.

"In so many of these harrowing instances in which law enforcement tragically kills a member of our community, we are talking about split-second decisions," Frey said.

But the officer who pinned Floyd had many seconds, he said. "Every one of which the officer could have turned back, every second of which he could have removed his knee form George Floyd's neck, listened to the community around him clearly saying that he needs to stop."

"Every one of which you heard George Floyd himself articulating the pain he was feeling and inability to breathe," Frey said.

Minneapolis police said in a statement early Tuesday that the officers were responding to a report of a forgery when Floyd "physically resisted" and that he died after "suffering medical distress."

But "I saw no threat," Frey said. "I saw nothing that would signal that this kind of force was necessary."

Benjamin Crump, an attorney for Floyd's family, has said that in all the bystander and surveillance video he's reviewed, Floyd doesn't appear to pose a threat to officers.

Frey said he would like police body camera video to be released as soon as possible, as long as it doesn't interfere with charges being brought. He said the knee-to-neck technique used by the officer isn't authorized by the Minneapolis Police Department.

A cause of death for Floyd, 46, hasn't been released, but Frey said he's confident the officer should be charged.

"How could I not speak out when an offense took place that you or I or many other people through our city would have been behind bars if they did?" Frey asked. "Yet this particular individual, this officer is not?"

"And by the way, black men have been put in prison before for far, far less," he added.

The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and the FBI are independently investigating Floyd's death.

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The Hennepin County Attorney's Office said it would make no further statement beyond the one made Tuesday "until we announce our decision on prosecution."

"We promise a thorough, expedited review consistent with our on-going commitment to justice. Every person is entitled to fairness; no person stands above the law," the statement said.

A spokeswoman told NBC News: "Note that our office and the BCA are working as quickly as possible."

Frey said that to his understanding, the decision to file charges is in the hands of the county attorney, but "to the extent that I'm wrong and there is a charging decision that lies with other bodies of government — yeah, I'm calling on that, too."