Bodycam Footage Shows Cops Savoring “Hunt” of Protestors
Recently-released footage of Minneapolis police responding to George Floyd protests reveals hostility and racial bias toward protestors by officers. Video clips posted at abc.com show some officers’ eagerness to be “out hunting people” as “a nice change of tempo.” Officers are heard making disparaging, vulgar, and racial comments about protestors and congratulating each other for direct hits with rubber bullets.
The period since the summer of demonstrations that gripped Minneapolis and other major cities has produced a backlash against protestors blamed for riots, arson, and looting. However, this footage supports the opinions of “several city council members” who, according to The Washington Post, criticized the police department for its “aggressive response to demonstrators in the early days after Floyd’s death [which] escalated the chaos and burning of parts of the city.” The city of Minneapolis is now reviewing the department’s response, including officers’ use of non-lethal weaponry.
The video was recorded on May 30, 2020, 5 days after George Floyd died in police custody. Floyd spent 9 minutes and 29 seconds under the knee of police officer Derek Chauvin, repeatedly complaining he couldn’t breathe. Much of the video was made public in connection with the failed prosecution of Jaleel Stallings, a 29-year-old Black man accused of shooting at police during the unrest.
In July, Stallings stood trial on charges of attempted murder and assault. The criminal complaint, filed in June 2020, accused Stallings of “firing three or four shots at approaching police officers.” None were hit. The officers claimed to have already been targeted by gunfire, rocks, and debris. An officer had fired a “marking round,” meaning a rubber bullet, striking Stallings in the chest. In his defense, Stallings, an armed forces veteran, claimed he thought he was under attack and returned fire. Since police fired from an unmarked white van, Stallings had no reason to believe it was police who fired at him.
But more damning than the initial “fog of war” misidentification of Stallings as a threat was his mistreatment by police upon apprehension and the lies included in the criminal complaint to cover up the abuse. According to The Post, cops “alleged that after firing at the officers, Stallings fled and ignored police commands to stay down.” Officers were thus compelled “to use physical force” since Stallings “resisted them.” However, the surveillance footage presented in court by the defense contradicted the criminal complaint. Images appeared “to show Stallings firing his weapon and lying down behind his truck, rather than trying to flee.” Subsequently, officers run up to Stallings and repeatedly kick and strike him.
Prosecutors offered Stallings a plea deal that would have imposed a 12-year prison term. Stallings decided to fight and was acquitted of all charges. Now, the focus should shift to the cops who abused their authority by unnecessarily beating a man who was not resisting arrest. We can hope the bodycam footage brought to light during the trial leads to a serious discussion of a police department culture that relished the “hunt” for unarmed protestors exercising their Constitutional rights.