On May 25, 2020, Derek Chauvin, a police officer on the Minneapolis, Minnesota police force pressed his knee against the neck of handcuffed George Floyd (1973–2020) for eight minutes and forty-six seconds, keeping him pinned to the ground while George repeatedly said, "I can't breathe." The incident was captured on camera. Officer Chauvin was fired and charged with second degree murder, and the three officers with him at the crime scene were also fired and charged with aiding and abetting second degree murder and aiding and abetting second degree manslaughter. Protests against police brutality broke out across the United States and in other countries. As of June 12, 2020, 550 rallies, protests, and vigils had occurred across the United States.
On June 1, 2020, the Hennepin County Medical Examiner released an updated autopsy report that ruled George's death was a homicide—that his heart and lungs had stopped functioning "while being restrained" by police officers. The report says that George died due to "cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual, restrain, and neck compression." It also included "other significant conditions," such as fentanyl intoxication, recent methamphetamine use, and existing heart disease. An earlier autopsy report had indicated "no physical findings that support a diagnosis of traumatic asphyxia or strangulation."
On June 16, 2020, the Minneapolis Police Department released dispatch recordings and 911 transcripts that revealed three people, in real time, expressed concern to the police department about the officer's use of force on George. A dispatcher watched on surveillance camera as Chauvin continued to press his knee on George's neck and alerted a supervisor. A 911 transcript from an off-duty firefighter who witnessed George's death shows the firefighter saying, "I literally watched police officers not take a pulse and not do anything to save a man....this dude, this, they f*****g killed him." In the transcript of the second 911 call, the caller says an officer "pretty much just killed this guy that wasn't resisting arrest." The caller then asks to speak with a supervisor.
George, born in Fayetteville, North Carolina, and raised in Houston, Texas, grew up in Houston's Third Ward neighborhood, played football and basketball at Jack Yates High School, and played basketball at South Florida State College in Avon Park, where the "gentle giant" averaged 12 to 14 points per game. He moved to Minneapolis for a fresh start and to be a better father, according to former NBA player Stephen Jackson (San Antonio Spurs), who was a long-time friend of George's and who called George his twin. Known as "Floyd" to his friends, he had a reputation for having a big heart, having his friends' backs, being a fun person to be around, and owning up to his own mistakes.
In Minneapolis, George had worked as a truck driver and as security for a restaurant for five years, before losing his job because of the coronavirus pandemic.