Newly released body-camera footage shows more of George Floyd’s fatal encounter in May with Minneapolis police, including that now-fired officers Derek Chauvin and Thomas K. Lane grabbed Floyd in a headlock as they tried to place him into a car, before ultimately pinning him to the ground.

The 22-minute video captured from a camera worn by Tou Thao, one of four former Minneapolis police officers charged in Floyd’s killing, is probably the last significant footage of the scene. Prosecutors filed the video as evidence in the ongoing criminal case, and it was made public Wednesday.

Here are some significant developments:
  • Breonna Taylor’s family met with the Kentucky attorney general and Louisville’s mayor, urging action on the officers involving in her shooting death.
  • The Austin City Council voted unanimously on Thursday to cut $150 million from the city’s police department.
  • Tennessee’s GOP-dominated legislature passed a bill that would make camping on state property, including the Capitol grounds, a felony.
  • Liberal prosecutors are facing backlash over lenient charges following civil unrest and looting, including in Portland, Ore., and Chicago.
  • The U.S. Conference of Mayors released a slate of recommendations for overhauling local police departments.
August 13, 2020 at 9:47 PM EDT

Oregon State Police are pulling out of downtown Portland

Oregon State Police are pulling out of downtown Portland, a spokesman for the department said Thursday night.

“The Oregon State Police is continually reassessing our resources and the needs of our partner agencies and at this time we are inclined to move those resources back to counties where prosecution of criminal conduct is still a priority,” spokesperson Timothy R. Foxtold The Washington Post. “This decision was based on the fact that our two week commitment ended last night. ... Troopers are returning to the communities that they are assigned to serve and protect.”

The decision to remove police presence from the Mark O. Hatfield U.S. Courthouse, the focal point of the demonstrations against police violence and racial injustice, comes as renewed clashes between protesters and police erupted this week after federal troops pulled out of the state in July.

Police declared a riot early Thursday morning as a group of protesters set fires and exploded commercial-grade fireworks outside the courthouse, prompting officers to set off tear gas. It was the first time that Portland police officers released tear gas downtown, Oregon Live reported.

The city’s police department said in a news release Thursday morning that “a large explosive and other fireworks were thrown towards officers, along with fist-sized rocks, bottles, and cans of paint,” posing “life safety issues” and prompting officers to use elevated levels of force. Additionally, the release said, “during the dispersal, one officer’s hand was severely hurt and several others sustained minor injuries.”

By Jessica Wolfrom
August 13, 2020 at 9:03 PM EDT

Man sentenced to life after stealing hedge clippers is granted parole hearing

NEW ORLEANS — An October parole hearing has been set for a Black man sentenced to life in prison after stealing hedge clippers in a 1997 burglary, a sentence Louisiana’s Supreme Court upheld despite its chief justice’s insistence that the punishment was excessive and rooted in racist law.

In November, a state appellate court held that the sentence for Fair Wayne Bryant, 62, was in accordance with the habitual offender law and, after an earlier appeal failed, no longer subject to review.

The Supreme Court voted 5 to 1 to let the ruling stand, with five White male justices voting in favor and Chief Justice Bernette Johnson, the court’s only Black member, voting against. A seventh justice, also a White male, was recused. The court issued the decision without comment, but Johnson posted a stinging two-page dissent in which she argued that the sentence was so out of proportion to the crime as to be clearly unconstitutional. Her response drew widespread attention to the case.

By Associated Press
August 13, 2020 at 8:48 PM EDT

Minneapolis police officer fired for decorating a Christmas tree with racist items will be reinstated

A Minneapolis police officer who was fired in 2018 for decorating a Christmas tree with racist items should get his job back, an arbitrator ruled, saying he had been wrongfully terminated.

Mark Bohnsack, the officer who decorated his precinct’s Christmas tree with cans of Steel Reserve malt liquor, crumpled bags of Takis chips, a Popeyes cup and Newport menthol cigarettes, will be reinstated but faces a 320-hour suspension without pay, the Star Tribune reported.

John Elder, a police department spokesman, confirmed Bohnsack would be reinstated but said another officer who was fired over the incident, Brandy Steberg, is not, the Star Tribune reported.

Arbitration, the process that allowed Bohnsack to return to work, is under intense scrutiny following the police killing of George Floyd and the nationwide protests calling for police reform and racial justice.

Arbitration has been cited as an obstacle to substantive reform and can reverse terminations for officer misconduct or wrongdoing. About half of all fired Minneapolis police officers get their jobs back through arbitration, MPR reported.

In June, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and Police Chief Medaria Arradondo called for changes in the arbitration process, and in July, the legislature passed a sweeping accountability bill that addressed arbitration.

“The facts of this case are clear. Chief Arradondo’s decision to terminate or discipline should not be overturned in cases like this,” the mayor tweeted. “We need arbitration reform that tackles an arbitrator’s authority to reinstate in cases of established, egregious misconduct.”

By Jessica Wolfrom
August 13, 2020 at 7:14 PM EDT

Missouri police charge man in killing of child who inspired ‘Operation Legend’

A Missouri prosecutor on Thursday said a man has been arrested and charged with second-degree murder in connection with the death of 4-year-old LeGend Taliferro, whose death inspired a controversial operation that sent more than 200 federal agents to the state.

In addition to the murder charge, Ryson Ellis, 22, is facing felony charges of unlawful use of a weapon and two counts of armed criminal actions. According to Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker, Ellis fired from an area behind the apartment where LeGend was sleeping early June 29. LeGend later died of his injuries at a hospital.

LeGend’s mother, Charron Powell, spoke at the White House last month about her son’s death. President Trump and Attorney General William P. Barr said they were naming a federal operation in Kansas City, Mo., Chicago and Albuquerque after LeGend. Local leaders signaled their uneasiness almost immediately as 200 agents flooded into Missouri and Chicago, a scene that worried mayors after clashes between federal officers and protesters in Portland, Ore.

Barr boasted that nascent operation netted 200 arrests within its first two weeks, but Justice Department officials later conceded to The Washington Post that the attorney general was counting arrests connected to a different initiative that began in December. The count also included many instances where U.S. marshals assisted rounding up fugitives wanted on local arrest warrants.

“Today’s arrest of LeGend Taliferro’s suspected murderer marks a significant step forward in his case and illustrates the potential of Operation Legend more broadly,” Barr said in a statement released by the department. “Although LeGend’s suspected murderer has been arrested, Operation Legend will go on.”

By Brent Griffiths
August 13, 2020 at 6:08 PM EDT

New Mexico city agrees to police reforms in settlement over man’s choking death

A New Mexico city will seek to adopt racial bias training for police and may require officers to intervene in possible excessive force episodes after the choking death of a Latino man, according to an agreement in a lawsuit announced Thursday.

The deal between the city of Las Cruces and a lawyer for the family of Antonio Valenzuela was part of the relatives’ push to reform the Las Cruces police after their wrongful death lawsuit in the case.

The Washington Post previously reported that between 2015 and last April, Las Cruces — where nearly 60 percent of residents are Hispanic — recorded the highest per capita rate of police killings in the nation.

By Associated Press
August 13, 2020 at 5:17 PM EDT

Austin votes to slash police budget by $150 million

The Austin City Council voted unanimously on Thursday to slash its police budget by nearly one-third with roughly $21 million in cuts effective immediately, most of which comes from canceling three coming cadet classes.

Councilor Greg Casar, who spearheaded the proposal, said he recognizes that the budget cut is just a beginning in the city’s efforts to try to make sweeping changes to how to conducts law enforcement.

“There’s so much more that we know our community is asking for if we want to truly reimagine public safety, and we know that we should be clear-eyed that there will be well-funded efforts to fearmonger about this vote and send us backwards, to talk about the false notion that this council isn’t interested in safety, but that’s exactly what this council unanimously has been working towards, justice and safety for everyone,” Casar told the Austin American-Statesman.

Community groups slammed the proposal for not going far enough, the American-Statesman reported. Grassroots Leadership and Communities of Color United had called for the council to cut roughly half of the department’s budget. The Austin Police Association opposed the council’s actions, saying its proposals were becoming “more ridiculous and unsafe for Austinites.”

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) attacked the council’s actions on Twitter.

The council’s budget does not include any layoffs for officers but rather would slash unfilled positions or, in the case of the cadet classes, those scheduled to be filled later. The Texas Tribune reports that the council would also consider allowing classes to begin the next fiscal year if the department makes changes to the training curriculum and recruitment practices.

The overwhelming majority of the $150 million in cuts are just the first step in the process.

The council’s budget calls for multiple parts of the department the council deems primarily civilian to be spun off, the largest portion being the communications and 911 call center. Another $50 million would go to a “Reimagine Safety Fund” that would redirect streams of department funding from areas like mounted patrols and traffic enforcement to various community programs.

By Brent Griffiths
August 13, 2020 at 5:06 PM EDT

More body camera footage released of George Floyd’s fatal encounter with police

A Minneapolis police officer openly mocked and became increasingly aggressive with bystanders who sought to intervene as George Floyd complained of struggling to breathe and ultimately lost consciousness while handcuffed and pinned to the ground during a fatal altercation with police in May, according to newly released police body camera video.

The footage was captured by a camera worn by Tou Thao, one of the four former Minneapolis police officers charged with Floyd’s murder. The 22-minute video was filed as evidence in the ongoing criminal case into Floyd’s Memorial Day death and made public Wednesday, two days after videos worn by two other officers at the scene — Thomas K. Lane and J. Alexander Kueng — were released.

Derek Chauvin, then a 19-year veteran of the Minneapolis police, has been charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter. The three other officers at the scene — Kueng, Lane and Thao — have been charged with aiding and abetting. All four were fired by the Minneapolis police and are scheduled to be back in court Sept. 11.

Thao arrived on the scene with Chauvin as Lane and Kueng were struggling to place Floyd into a squad car, as they investigated him for the passing of a counterfeit $20 bill. The footage from Thao’s camera adds to the intensity of the scene, as Floyd fought against being placed in the car and claimed he was claustrophobic. The footage shows Chauvin grabbed Floyd into a headlock as he and Lane tried to place him into car, before ultimately pinning him to the ground.

As Chauvin, Kueng and Lane held Floyd to the street, Thao stood to the side monitoring a growing crowd of people who urged the officers to ease their bodies off Floyd, who was pleading with them and telling them he could not breathe. At one point, Floyd is heard crying out, “They’re going to kill me.” The footage shows Thao turn back to the people on the sidewalk and declare, “This is why you don’t do drugs, kids.”

The video shows Thao become increasingly aggressive with bystanders, who urge the officers to “get off” Floyd after he stops moving. He is shown yelling at a woman who identified herself as an off-duty Minneapolis firefighter and urged him to check Floyd’s pulse. “Back off,” Thao screamed. As she continued to try to intervene, Thao questioned her credentials, before finally declaring, “I am not going to have this conversation.”

Thao’s video is likely the last significant footage of the scene. Chauvin’s body camera was knocked off during the struggle with Floyd, and Thao’s video shows Kueng retrieving it from under the car after Floyd’s body is taken away by an ambulance. A source close to the case says Chauvin’s camera captured audio, but not video of the Floyd encounter. It has not yet been entered as evidence in the case.

After the ambulance drives away, Thao and Chauvin walk to their squad car — pursued by at least one man who continued to berate Chauvin, accusing him of murdering Floyd. In the car, the video shows Thao turn the ignition, and suddenly, a car radio blares on, playing “Alone,” an ’80s power ballad by the group Heart.

By Holly Bailey
August 13, 2020 at 4:09 PM EDT

North Carolina city may rename streets with a racist past

The North Carolina city of Asheville is considering renaming streets that bear the names of enslavers and others associated with wrongs against Asheville’s Black community. It is also considering renaming at least one park.

The recommendations, announced at a July City Council meeting, come amid nationwide demonstrations for racial justice sparked by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody in May.

The Asheville-based group, Black AVL Demands, called for “streets named after former enslavers” to be renamed to honor “historic local Black leaders,” the Asheville Citizen Times reported.

Among the streets eligible for renaming is Merrimon Avenue, the main thoroughfare that bisects downtown Asheville. Augustus Summerfield Merrimon, a U.S. senator who briefly served the Confederacy during the Civil War, defended voter intimidation and other discriminatory practices against Black residents during the 1876 South Carolina elections.

Asheville’s city manager, Debra Campbell, asked the Asheville and Buncombe County African American Heritage Commission to recommend streets to be renamed, as well as names to replace them with, the Citizen Times reported.

“We have heard the community. We want to respond and move forward together. We understand that racism is a systemic problem,” Campbell said. “This is bigger than police and the city cannot solve it alone.”

The city council also introduced a resolution supporting reparations for Asheville’s Black community in the July meeting. It apologized for past wrongs, including the enslavement and segregation of and discrimination against Black residents, and recognized that Black people have historically been denied equal access to housing, employment opportunities and health care, among other basic civil liberties.

By Jessica Wolfrom
August 13, 2020 at 3:37 PM EDT

Hostage situations and rappelling out of helicopters: How police recruitment ads glamorize the role

As protesters across the United States continue to demand reforms to law enforcement and the defunding of police departments, there has been increasing scrutiny on how police departments attract new officers.

Just on YouTube, there are dozens of recruitment videos published on the pages of police forces promoting the kind of work that a recruit might do: kicking down doors, ordering dogs to attack people and rappelling out of helicopters.

Those images, experts say, reflect a conscious choice, with the agencies aiming to attract people who are inclined toward aggressive action.

In 2019, Wendy Koslicki, assistant professor of criminal justice and criminology at Ball State University, looked at recruitment videos of more than 200 of the largest U.S. policing agencies and found that the themes of the videos fell on a spectrum from community-oriented to extremely militarized.

Koslicki says that by promoting the side of policing that looks more like an action movie, some of the videos are giving an inaccurate picture of what police work entails. A review of police recruitment videos by The Washington Post found that many skewed toward the militaristic side of policing, downplaying more-mundane tasks such as vehicle stops, citizen assistance and traffic management.

But some departments are evolving their recruitment strategies, pointing The Post to other videos they produced that show less frequent use of firearms.

By Luis Velarde
August 13, 2020 at 12:43 PM EDT

U.S. Conference of Mayors recommends policing changes: Ban on chokeholds, mandatory body cams, limits on police union powers

The U.S. Conference of Mayors on Thursday released a slate of recommendations for overhauling local police departments, after months of angry demonstrations against police brutality across the country. Their policy suggestions include banning chokeholds, mandating that officers wear body cameras and limiting the power of police unions to keep problem officers on the job.

The bipartisan organization created a working group after the May 25 death of George Floyd in Minneapolis — a police officer had knelt on his neck for more than nine minutes — and said they are seizing upon a national push for greater accountability to transform policing nationwide.

But the mayors emphatically rejected calls to “defund the police” and said instead local governments should increase funding for social workers and intervention counselors so that armed police officers are not necessarily the first to respond to crises.

“We believe we have the right plan to implement real change,” said Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot (D), the chair of the conference’s Working Group on Police Reform and Racial Justice. She acknowledged that in past efforts to make change, similar recommendations have “been relegated to the dustbin of history.”

“We will not let that happen with this report,” said Lightfoot, whose city has been roiled with protests and looting, including earlier this week, when hundreds of people smashed windows and vandalized stores after a police-involved shooting Sunday.

The mayors released the recommendations in a 40-page report that acknowledged the systemic racism that Lightfoot said “has failed far too many.” She said changes must deal directly with “our country’s history of racism and how policing has been used to enforce racism, segregation and the impact of that reality on communities of color in particular.”

Among the recommendations: The mayors said police should use force as a last resort and ban “chokeholds, strangleholds, or any other carotid restraints, unless deadly force is necessary,” and prohibit force against people who are fleeing, unless they are likely to harm someone else. Cities should train police officers to protect residents’ constitutional right to protest; authorities in some cities have sprayed tear gas and pepper bullets at protesters in recent months.

Departments should have clear “de-escalation” policies to prevent violence, the report said, and require officers to report all uses of force. And the report said mayors should renegotiate union contracts so officer discipline is swift and transparent, an issue Lightfoot said might require changes to state laws as well.

The U.S. Conference of Mayors represents more than 1,400 cities with populations of 30,000 or more.

The working group included Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley, Tampa Mayor Jane Castor, as well as police chiefs in Baltimore, Phoenix and Columbia, S.C.

By Maria Sacchetti
August 13, 2020 at 12:17 PM EDT

Breonna Taylor’s family meets with Kentucky attorney general, Louisville mayor, urging action on officers who killed her

Members of Breonna Taylor’s family and the family’s lawyer met with Kentucky’s attorney general and Lousville’s mayor this week to discuss the progress of an investigation into the March police-involved slaying of the 26-year-old Black woman in her apartment.

Civil rights lawyer Ben Crump said the meetings were to discuss the “botched no-knock warrant” that led to the “execution” of Taylor in her home. The legal team said no elements of the investigation were discussed, and lawyer Lonita Baker said Attorney General Daniel Cameron personally extended his condolences to the family for the first time since Taylor was killed.

Baker said the family wants a resolution, but they also want it to be the correct resolution.

“We’re not going to wait forever, we do want this resolved quickly and accurately,” Baker said, appearing outside Louisville Metro Hall on Thursday with Crump, Taylor’s mother, Tamika Palmer, and her aunt.

Cameron acknowledged the meeting in a post on Twitter. “Our Office of Special Prosecutions continues to review all the facts in the case to determine the truth,” spokeswoman Elizabeth Kuhn said in a statement.

To date, no charges have been filed against the officers who shot and killed Taylor. Crump said Louisville has been slow to respond to the case, unlike in other cities, where police were quickly suspended, fired, arrested and charged in police-involved slayings. He specifically cited the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, which led to a nearly immediate investigation, arrest and charges of the officers involved.

“They are still waiting, after 150 days, for these officers to be terminated,” Crump said of Taylor’s family. Crump said he expects city leaders to “rise to the occasion” to be a “conscience for the community.” He added: “We do expect charges to be filed sooner rather than later for those responsible for the death, for the execution, of Breonna Taylor."

Taylor’s death has spurred widespread protests across Louisville, and her death has become a significant part of the racial reckoning that has been taking place across the country.

By Donna Owens
August 13, 2020 at 11:21 AM EDT

It’s Black Women’s Equal Pay Day. It takes 20 months for Black women to earn what White men make in a year.

Thursday is what advocates have dubbed “Black Women’s Equal Pay Day,” marking the day of the year — including the entire previous year — that it would take a Black woman to earn what White, non-Hispanic men would have earned in just 2019 for the same work.

Last year, Black women earned just 62 cents for every dollar a White, non-Hispanic man made, according to data compiled by the National Women’s Law Center. At that rate, it takes about 20 months — from January to August of the next year — for Black women to earn the same amount their White male counterparts earn in just 12 months.

Compounding the societal impact of that disparity, experts say that more than 70 percent of Black women are the primary breadwinners for their households.

“Millions of Black women are working low-paid jobs on the front lines of the pandemic to keep the rest of us safe, but they’re barely making a living — and the wage gap shortchanges them every day,” Fatima Goss Graves, president and CEO of the National Women’s Law Center, told The Washington Post.

Black women teachers earn an estimated $14,000 a year less than White male teachers, she said, while Black housekeepers earn $12,000 less, and grocery store cashiers earn $8,100 less.

“Especially at this moment of a devastating pandemic and a cratering economy, this is life-changing money that Black women should have in their pockets to care for their families and build economic security,” Goss said.

Stephanie Schriock, president of Emily’s List, which works to elect Democratic women who support abortion rights, described the gender and racial wage gap as an economic and family issue “that creates ripple effects impacting communities across the country.”

“There are many legislative initiatives we can enact to close the race and gender pay gap,” Schriock said, noting that the House already has passed measures that later stalled in the Senate. “However, that is just the beginning. We also need to continue to elect women to every level of government who will fight to raise the minimum wage, strengthen maternity leave policies and provide affordable child care. With Black women in power, we will achieve pay equity in this country.”

By Donna Owens
August 13, 2020 at 10:01 AM EDT

National Urban League report says coronavirus outbreak has exposed systemic racial inequities

The National Urban League’s annual State of Black America report says that the coronavirus epidemic has exposed systemic racial inequities and that the crisis has revealed the true face of racism in America.

The 2020 State of Black America report — titled “Unmasked” — explores the ways that covid-19 has brought racism to the fore, particularly as it is demonstrated within the nation’s economy, health-care institutions and justice systems.

Among the findings: African Americans and Latinos are more than three times as likely to contract the coronavirus as White people, and African Americans are nearly twice as likely to die as a result of the illness. The Black death rate is higher than the Latino rate, even though Latinos are more likely to contract the infection, because the U.S. Black population skews older, according to the report.

Black patients have tended to be far more sick when they receive treatment, in part because they are less likely to have health insurance and because racism in the health-care system has led to downplaying of coronavirus symptoms, according to the report.

Marc Morial, president and chief executive of the National Urban League, emphasized that the pandemic coincided with the May death of George Floyd in Minneapolis during a police arrest and other police-involved killings nationwide. He likened it to a match dropped into a powder keg of grief.

“ 'I can’t breathe’ became emblematic of more than Floyd’s personal struggle in the moment,” Morial said. “Our reporting revealed the common denominator in the alarming and disproportionate ratio of Black people left gasping for air in emergency rooms and at the hands — and knees — of law enforcement: centuries of systemic racism.”

First issued in 1976, the State of Black America examines racial equality in America across economics, employment, education, health, housing, criminal justice and civic participation. Contributors to this year’s report include civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump; justice reform advocate and political commentator Van Jones; and Lisa Cooper, Director of the John Hopkins Center for Health Equity, a partner on the report which found that as states began to collect race-based data about the pandemic, a bleak picture emerged: Black, Latino and Indigenous people were getting sick and dying in higher numbers.

By Donna Owens
August 13, 2020 at 8:26 AM EDT

Jerry Jones promises ‘grace’ as he and Cowboys discuss kneeling during national anthem

In June, when NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell apologized and said, “Black Lives Matter,” after the death of George Floyd, there was a curious silence from Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who had been adamant his players stand during the national anthem rather than take a knee to raise awareness of social injustice and police brutality.

On Wednesday, he ended his uncharacteristic silence after 109 days (by ESPN’s count), admitting times have changed.

“That was then, two years ago. This is now,” he told reporters. “We have had very, very sensitive times. I don’t need to share that we’re also embroiled in a very other sensitive time with the challenge and the war, literally, with the [novel coronavirus].”

In 2017, when players taking a knee for the anthem was a national debate fueled by President Trump, Jones threatened any player who didn’t stand with benching. Before a Monday night game that year, Jones and the Cowboys joined arms and took a knee before the anthem, then stood with arms linked for it.

Jones, as he is prone to do, talked at length and wasn’t clear about his plans, but he used the words “grace” and “understanding” in an effort to reconcile his feelings and those of the players.

By Cindy Boren