PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Local leaders are reacting to the death of a handcuffed black man in Minneapolis police custody.
On Monday, the 46-year-old George Floyd died after being apprehended outside a store after a report of a counterfeit bill. A video from a bystander shows a white male police officer’s knee pressed on Floyd’s neck. George could be heard saying he can’t breathe.
Four officers involved have been fired.
Tim Stevens, chairman and CEO of Pittsburgh’s Black Political Empowerment Project, and forensic pathologist Dr. Cyril Wecht are calling Floyd’s deaths an atrocity.
“I don’t know how anyone could explain how an officer could put his knee on someone in handcuffs,” said Stevens.
Stevens says he has been flooded with calls and texts about Floyd’s death.
Stevens has advocated in similar tragedies for decades. He was involved in the 1995 case of Jonny Gammage, who died of asphyxiation after being tackled to the ground in a confrontation with suburban Pittsburgh police officers.
“No one watching that video can say that officer was protecting or serving,” Stevens said. “He was abusing his immense authority to the point where he committed murder.”
“This case is extremely barbaric,” said Dr. Wecht.
Dr. Wecht, the former Allegheny County Coroner and a renowned forensic pathologist, says he watched the video of Floyd many times.
Wecht was also involved in Gammage’s case, which prompted nationwide policies preventing officers from placing suspects face down.
“Pressure on the neck is going to compromise that vascular supply bringing oxygen to the brain,” Wecht told KDKA.
Wecht and Stevens say the video shows minutes elapsing with the officer leaning on Floyd, something they hope will illustrate how dangerous this can be.
“We have to stop these kinds of brutal police tactics,” Wecht said.
“Justice for George Floyd” protests are expected in many cities, including in Pittsburgh on Saturday afternoon.