Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Transcripts Of Police Body Cams Show George Floyd Pleading For Life


We are learning more about the minutes before George Floyd's death. His killing at the hands of a police officer in Minneapolis set off protests nationwide. We now have a transcript of the body camera footage from one of the officers involved. We want to warn you that the details you will hear over the next four minutes are disturbing, and they are not appropriate for all listeners. Brandt Williams is a reporter with Minnesota Public Radio. Thank you so much for being with us.


MARTIN: What do we learn from this new transcript, Brandt?

WILLIAMS: Well, the transcript provides a more complete sense of what's being said by who and at what point. The bystander video that we've - that's been widely seen doesn't really fully capture what the police officers were saying to one another or how Floyd responded to them. For example, Floyd repeatedly tells the officers he can't breathe. I counted him saying that at least 20 times. And what the transcript does make abundantly clear, though, is the extreme level of distress that George Floyd repeatedly communicated to the four officers.

MARTIN: What does it tell us about how the officers responded?

WILLIAMS: Sure. And, you know, it's worth noting that this is a transcript, so we can't see the body language of the officers. We can't hear the tone of their voices. Yet what's - what it shows is that there is this rapid escalation in fear and tension in the moments. At the beginning of the confrontation, Officer Thomas Lane and his partner, J. Alexander Kueng, approached the vehicle that Floyd was sitting in. Lane pulls his gun. He points it at Floyd, tells him to put his hands on top of his head. At that point, Floyd is clearly agitated. Again, he has got a gun pointed at him by a police officer. And so he pleads with Lane not to shoot him. He says, please don't shoot me. And he says that several times. After Floyd gets out of the car, the officers try for several minutes to get him into the squad car. And Floyd continually tells the officers that he's claustrophobic. He doesn't want to get into the squad car and he says, quote, "I'll die in there."

MARTIN: Brandt, why are we seeing this now? I mean, where'd this transcript come from exactly?

WILLIAMS: Well, one of those now former officers, Thomas Lane, is trying to get the criminal charges against him dismissed. And he and the two other men, J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao, have been charged with aiding and abetting murder. Derek Chauvin, the man who kneeled on Floyd's neck, is facing the second and third-degree murder charges. Lane's attorney, Earl Gray, included the transcripts from Lane's body camera to support his motion to have those charges dismissed. And Gray argues that the transcripts show that Lane voiced concerns about Floyd's health and asked Chauvin if they should turn Floyd over and that Chauvin had told him no.

MARTIN: So what else? I mean, why does Lane's attorney - why's he convinced this transcript supports the dismissal of the charges against his client?

WILLIAMS: Well, according to these transcripts, again, Lane first asked Chauvin if they should get Floyd's legs up and Chauvin had said no, just leave them. Lane had also called for an ambulance. Floyd was bleeding from his mouth. In a later interview with investigators, Lane said that Floyd had likely hurt himself by thrashing around in the squad car when they managed to briefly get him in there. They later had to take him out. They got him on the ground, hold him down. Lane asked again if they should roll Floyd over. Chauvin again says no. That's when Lane says, "I just worry about the excited delirium or whatever." That's a quote. And by the way, excited delirium is this syndrome which can lead to sudden death. And Chauvin replies, well, that's why we've got the ambulance coming. Lane then replies to that, OK, I suppose.

And, of course, while this is happening, there are people standing nearby who are - they're yelling at the officers to get off of Floyd. One man is yelling at Chauvin, calling him names. And again, Lane asks if they should roll him over. Soon after that, Floyd becomes unresponsive. And his attorney, Earl Gray, also argues that Lane was an experienced (ph) officer. He looked to Chauvin for direction. Chauvin had 19 years of experience on the force and was a field training officer for other officers in the precinct.

MARTIN: Just briefly, Brandt, Lane is currently out on bail. What's the status of the other officers' cases?

WILLIAMS: Well, two of the other men are out on bail as well. Chauvin is still in custody. All four of these officers were fired less than a day later. Lane and his attorney are scheduled to be back in court to argue this motion in September. And for now, a trial is scheduled to begin next year.

MARTIN: Brandt Williams, a reporter for Minnesota Public Radio, we appreciate it. Thank you.

WILLIAMS: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Brant Williams