Updated May 29, 2020 - 11:37 am
Joining a choir of disapproval on social media from police chiefs and sheriffs across the country, Nevada law enforcement leaders on Thursday distanced their agencies from the actions of a Minneapolis officer involved in the death of an unarmed black man.
“The deplorable incident in Minneapolis chills me and goes against all that I teach and have been taught in my career as a Trooper,” Nevada Highway Patrol Col. Daniel Solow tweeted on Thursday morning.
On Monday night, an employee at a Minneapolis grocery store called police after a man, later identified as 46-year-old George Floyd, allegedly tried to pass a counterfeit $20 bill.
In widely circulated cellphone video of his subsequent arrest, Floyd can be seen on the ground with his hands cuffed behind his back while police officer Derek Chauvin presses him to the pavement, his knee on Floyd’s neck. Three other officers were at the scene.
The video shows Chauvin, who is white, holding Floyd down for minutes as the man complains that he can’t breathe. The video ends with paramedics lifting a limp Floyd onto a stretcher and placing him in an ambulance.
Within 24 hours of Floyd’s death, Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo fired Chauvin and the three other officers, identified as Thomas Lane, Tou Thao and J. Alexander Kueng.
Floyd’s death has sparked unrest in Minneapolis, where conflict between protesters and police officers has erupted two days in a row. On Tuesday, officers in riot gear fired tear gas at protesters, some damaging property as they marched more than 2 miles. During Wednesday’s protests, some protesters threw rocks and bottles at police.
Solow’s tweet on Thursday included photos of troopers interacting with members of the community.
“This is the face of policing: part of the community, never against it,” the tweet continued. “This career is about service & making everyone’s lives better and secure.”
Meanwhile, Sheriff Joe Lombardo, Clark County’s top police officer, wrote on Twitter: “The death of Mr. Floyd is deeply disturbing. The officers’ actions and inaction are inconsistent with the training and protocols of our profession and the LVMPD. I can assure you the LVMPD will strive each day to continue to build your trust.”
The death of Mr. Floyd is deeply disturbing. The officers' actions and inaction are inconsistent with the training and protocols of our profession and the LVMPD.
I can assure you the LVMPD will strive each day to continue to build your trust.
— Joseph Lombardo (@Sheriff_LVMPD) May 28, 2020
Lombardo’s statement comes three years after then-Metropolitan Police Department officer Kenneth Lopera stunned an unarmed black man with a Taser seven times and punched him at least a dozen times before placing him in an unauthorized, martial arts-type chokehold for more than a minute. The encounter was captured on video, and the man, Tashii Brown, was pronounced dead at a local hospital less than an hour later. He was 40.
The sheriff’s sentiments on Thursday are vastly different from his comments in the days following Brown’s death. At the time, Lombardo asked the public for patience while the agency investigated the death.
“It’s too early in the process,” he said during a news conference on May 17, 2017. “We do not even know the cause of death right now.”
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In addition to the unauthorized chokehold, according to Lopera’s arrest report, the officer, who is white, also violated department policies when he stunned Brown seven times. Metro’s policy is to deploy a Taser only three times before moving on to another tactic. The report also stated that Lopera gave Brown contradictory demands, telling him to get on his stomach while also instructing him not to move.
The Clark County coroner’s office eventually ruled Brown’s May 14, 2017, death a homicide. He died from asphyxia due to police restraint procedures, with contributing factors that included methamphetamine use and an enlarged heart. Had he survived, Metro has said, Brown would not have faced any criminal charges.
Lopera was charged about a month after the death with involuntary manslaughter and oppression under the color of office. It marked the first time in nearly three decades that a Metro officer faced charges in connection with a police shooting or an in-custody death, though a grand jury in July 2018 declined to indict Lopera. Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson stopped pursuing charges after the grand jury’s decision, and the charges against Lopera were dismissed.
Lombardo did not respond on Thursday to a request for further comment.
Nationally, Floyd’s death, which is under investigation by the FBI and Minneapolis law enforcement authorities, immediately drew comparisons to the case of Eric Garner, an unarmed black man who died in 2014 in New York after he was placed in a chokehold by police and pleaded for his life, saying he could not breathe.
A Black Lives Matter march is scheduled for 2 p.m. Friday at the Miracle Mile Shops on the Las Vegas Strip, according to a flyer on social media.