May 28, 2020

FBI News Conference Transcript on the Death of George Floyd Investigation

FBI Update on the Death of George Floyd
RevBlogTranscriptsPress Conference TranscriptsFBI News Conference Transcript on the Death of George Floyd Investigation

The FBI held a press conference on May 28, outlining the federal investigation on the death of George Floyd, a Minneapolis African American man killed by a police officer.

 

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Erica MacDonald: (00:01)
First and foremost, I apologize profusely for the wait that you all had to have. We thought we would have another development that I could tell you about. Unfortunately, we don’t at this point, but I am here to talk to you about the federal investigation. County attorney. Mr. Freeman, standing to my right is here to talk to you about the state investigation. With me is Rainer Drolshagen. He is the special agent in charge of Minneapolis, FBI. He too will talk about the federal investigation and Superintendent Drew Evans from BCA will also make a few comments before we open it up for question and answer.

Erica MacDonald: (00:47)
My name is Erica MacDonald. I’m the United States Attorney here for the District of Minnesota.

Erica MacDonald: (00:52)
On May 25th of 2020, George Floyd was arrested and detained by Minneapolis police officers. I’m here to talk about and make sure the community and the media is aware that we are conducting a robust and meticulous investigation into the circumstances surrounding the events of May 25th, 2020, and the police officer’s actions on that evening.

Erica MacDonald: (01:29)
I really probably don’t need this to say this to all of you, but Minneapolis, our nation, really the world, has witnessed this incredibly and disturbing loss of life. My heart goes out to George Floyd. My heart goes out to his family. My heart goes out to his friends and my heart goes out to the community. We are grieving and we will continue to grieve.

Erica MacDonald: (02:11)
To be clear, the Department of Justice has made the investigation in this case, a top priority. We have assigned highest of the high, in my office, to investigate and look at the case. FBI, likewise has assigned their experienced law enforcement officers to conduct the investigation and to be clear, President Trump, as well as Attorney General William Barr are directly and actively monitoring the investigation in this case. I have had direct communications with Attorney General Barr and his staff and will continue to do so. The federal investigation in this case will determined whether the actions, the former Minneapolis police officers took, violated any federal criminal laws to include any civil rights violations.

Erica MacDonald: (03:22)
Federal civil rights, criminal cases have categories and one is called under color of law. In other words, if an officer, whether it be federal, state, local, or tribal is acting under their authority and asserts or invokes the power bestowed upon them to deprive any person, of any right or privilege protected by the constitution or the laws of the United States, that is a violation of federal criminal law.

Erica MacDonald: (03:56)
It must be proven that the subject took action or did not take action when he or she knew that was wrong and chose to do it anyway. As with all matters, the investigation in this case will be comprehensive and will be conducted with the highest integrity as the community would expect.

Erica MacDonald: (04:25)
For those that aren’t aware of my background, prior to being the United States Attorney for the District of Minnesota, I was a judge in Dakota County for over eight plus years. Having sat on that side of the bench and having presided over a multitude of trials, I can tell you, I can tell the community, I can tell everybody interested that it is critical. It is essential. It is imperative that the investigation is done right and done right the first time and that is what we are going to do. This has been a rapidly evolving situation. We first learned of it in the early morning hours of Tuesday. The FBI reached out directly to me and we had been working on this case nonstop since we were notified. We understand the severity of this situation unfolding. It breaks my heart to see what is going on in our streets in Minneapolis and in Saint Paul and in some of our suburbs. I am pleading, I am pleading with individuals to remain calm and to let us conduct this investigation.

Erica MacDonald: (05:52)
Give it just a minute before I blow over.

Erica MacDonald: (05:58)
We share with the FBI and we share with our state partners who are conducting parallel, but independent investigation, so that is clear. We have two different investigations and conclusions and recommendations that will come from those to each of our respective offices but we share an unwavering commitment to see that this investigation is done right, that it’s sent forth with, that we act with dispatch and that we live up to the standards the community demands. Our highest priority is that justice will be served.

Erica MacDonald: (06:40)
With that, I am going to close my comments and turn it over to special agent in charge. Rainer Drolshagen, from the FBI.

Rainer Drolshagen: (06:52)
Thank you, Erica. Good afternoon. My name is Rainer Drolshagen. I’m the special agent in charge of the Minneapolis Field Office. Echoing US Attorney’s comments I’d like to say I express my complete condolences to the Floyd family. I’d also like to express my sympathy to the citizens of Minnesota, as there is extreme frustration, anger, and sadness. I also want to thank Chief Arradondo, of Minneapolis police department. He reached out to me in the middle of the night and requested our assistance. His call enabled me to immediately reach out to the US Attorney’s Office to enlist their assistance. And as such, we were able to open an investigation in a matter of a few hours after the incident.

Rainer Drolshagen: (07:52)
Our role in this investigation is to investigate allegations of willful violations of federal civil rights.

Rainer Drolshagen: (08:02)
Federal civil rights. The FBI team is following the path where the facts will lead us. We are conducting a swift yet meticulous investigation. In less than 72 hours, much work has been done, but I assure you there’s much more to be accomplished. I want you to ensure that you understand we respond to cases like these as quickly as possible. We will follow the case to conclusion in partnership with our state partner, the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. The FBI is a fact gathering agency. We collect facts and we need your help. We’re asking everyone that was present before, during and after the incident to come forward to help us build the best picture of what occurred. Each little piece of the puzzle helps us complete the big picture. If you have any information or if you have any videos or you know of anyone who can help us with this, I encourage you to ask them to contact 1-800-CALL-FBI. Again, I’m encouraging you to reach out to 1- 800-CALL-FBI. No tip is too small. Thank you.

Mike Freeman: (09:43)
Good afternoon. I’m Mike Freeman, Hennepin County attorney. We are the principal prosecuting agency for the state and the criminal side. Initially I want to say that my thoughts and those of my office continue to be with a family and the friends of George Floyd. They know they are hurting over the senseless death. The manager of our victim services division has been in touch with George Floyd’s family on several occasions and is keeping them updated on what is happening in this case. They’re aware that the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, better known as the BCA, the Hennepin County medical examiner and the Hennepin County attorney’s office are moving as quickly and thoroughly as possible.

Mike Freeman: (10:32)
I’ve also been in direct consultations with governor Tim Walz, with the attorney general Keith Ellison and others in the state, the city and the County to discussions on this case. As many of you know, the Hennepin County attorney’s office is one of very few prosecution offices in the United States who have successfully charged and convicted and obtained a guilty verdict against a police officer for unreasonable use of deadly force. We have developed a detailed plan for that prosecution and with the BCA, a detailed plan for investigation.

Mike Freeman: (11:15)
Our office has been flooded with calls, many as a thousand a day, as well as email and social media from people in this jurisdiction, in this state and throughout the country. The main question is what are you going to do about the murder of George Floyd? Well, I’ve just described what we’re going to do. We are going to investigate it as expeditiously, as thoroughly and completely as justice demands. Sometimes that takes a little time and we ask people to be patient. We have to do this right and that’s what we’ll do.

Mike Freeman: (11:52)
I also want to tell you that our office has led the nation in openness on these types of cases. When we decide to charge an officer, we put the criminal complaint on our website. If we decide that the evidence does not support a criminal charge, we put our report in all our evidence on the website for all to see. When we make the decision in this case, we will do the same. What I can assure the citizens of Minnesota, we will do it as quickly as we can do it as possible. We’ll do it as quickly as possible. I think Drew Evans from the BCA is next. Drew.

Drew Evans: (12:34)
Thank you, county attorney Freeman. My name is Drew Evans. I am the superintendent of the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. First I’d like to share with my colleagues here in expressing my deepest thoughts and sympathies to the family of George Floyd, the heartbreak that they’re going through and the community as a whole. This is a difficult time for our entire community as they mourn his death. The Bureau of Criminal Apprehension began this investigation immediately after this incident occurred, when we were contacted by the Minneapolis Police Department. Agents were deployed, including our crime scene immediately began gathering evidence, talking to witnesses, and then working immediately with the county attorney’s office discussing our findings and what we had at that time.

Drew Evans: (13:18)
Over the night as was indicated, the FBI was contacted. I spoke to Chief Arradondo. He informed me of his contacting them, and that was a contact we all welcome in this process. We’re working very collaboratively together through this process. Our agents are working closely together. We’ve deployed numerous resources. We brought in agents from all over the state, recognizing the importance of an expeditious, quick investigation that is still thorough, independent, and unbiased by all of our organizations. Those findings will be turned over to the county attorney on the state side and on the federal side as noted to the United States attorney’s office.

Drew Evans: (13:54)
The same thing we share as the FBI did, we want any citizen, anybody who was there that witnessed this event, that has information that would be helpful to our investigation to either call the FBI tips line or (651) 793-7000, which is the BC operation center. My perspective is we want citizens to go wherever they are most comfortable, whichever line they are so that we get all of the information in this case so we can conduct the most thorough investigation possible and with that, I think we’ll turn it over to the US attorney and county attorney for questions.

Erica MacDonald: (14:31)
And so at this point, we’re going to open it up for questions. I can tell you… I’ll start by saying, we’ve got questions too and we’re getting answers to those. We’re doing our best. We’re digging in, but we do and I want to echo what my law enforcement partners said. We need the community’s help. There were folks there on the scene, not folks that we couldn’t identify necessarily at the time. We need to know who they are. Come forward. If you have a video, please share it. We want to do, as quickly as we can, a thorough investigation to get answers to those questions and I know that I saw the first hand going up was in front of me. Ma’am, you had a question?

Speaker 5: (15:07)
Yeah. Tonight, [inaudible 00:15:14] is already saying what you guys are announcing today… They were hoping for maybe charges. You guys stepped out and say because we’re not [inaudible 00:15:23], that’s going to ignite more riots.

Erica MacDonald: (15:27)
My hope is that getting it out through you, that the community will understand that we are taking this seriously, that we’re working as quickly as possible. So the community understands we don’t announce investigations typically. As you in the media knows, it’s unusual for us to come forward and tell you about investigation. As a United States attorney, we’re counseled that we are not to talk about that until the time of the conviction typically, or in some cases, perhaps charges. It was really… It’s really imperative that the community understands how seriously we’re taking this and how quickly and swiftly we are moving on this and so…

Erica MacDonald: (16:03)
And how quickly and swiftly we are moving on this. And so my hope with that is that people will understand peaceful protests are always acceptable. That is the cornerstone of our justice system, is that people have the right to say how they feel and to talk about their feelings and to protest peacefully. But the obstruction and the destruction of property and harm to individuals has got to stop. We are one Minnesota, we’re at our best we’re not at our worst, we’ve got to come together and stop the needless and unnecessary destruction of property and harm to human life, sir.

Mike Freeman: (16:42)
Yes, this state is well known and it has a strong reputation for firm and thorough first amendment advocation. We support peaceful demonstrations. I had a long talk today with Reverend Jesse Jackson, who came at the request of attorney general Keith Ellison and the governor. And I believe Reverend Jackson will be speaking and asking for peaceful protest today. Peaceful protest is good, it advocates our rights and it also calls forth the witnesses that the United States attorney wants us to come forward. Violence is not. Violence hampers our case, it takes valuable police resources away from our investigation, and it also harms innocent people who had nothing to do with that. It gets in the way of our work. So we’re asking please, say what you need to say, demonstrate how you need to do that is in our constitution and all of us believe in that. But please don’t destroy an innocent person’s property who had nothing to do with it.

Speaker 8: (17:49)
I think part of the problem is sir, the video goes on for seven minutes. He is clearly struggling to breathe during that time. And I think people will be hard pressed to understand how you can’t bring charges at least I guess to the officer who had his knee on that man’s neck.

Mike Freeman: (18:10)
It’s a violation of my ethics to talk and evaluate evidence before we announce our charging decision and I will not do that. I will say this, that that video is graphic and horrific and terrible and no person should do that. But my job in the end is to prove that he violated a criminal statute and there is other evidence that does not support a criminal charge. We need to wait through all of that evidence and to come through with a meaningful determination. And we are doing that to the best of our ability.

Speaker 9: (18:46)
[inaudible 00:18:47].

Speaker 10: (18:46)
When it comes to the African-American community [inaudible 00:00:18:57]. What message can you give us to take back to the African-American community to bring peace and to assure them that justice is going to be served.

Mike Freeman: (19:18)
I bring them the same message that African-American attorney general of the state of Minnesota Keith Ellison is bringing, I’m bringing the same message of the Reverend Jesse Jackson. We have to do this right. We have to prove it in a court of law. And I will just point to you the comparison to what happened in Billy in Baltimore in the Gray case. It was a rush to charge, it was a rush to justice and all of those people were found not guilty. I will not rush to justice, I’m going to do this right. And those folks who know me in the African community know I will do my very level best but I will not rush justice because justice cannot be rushed.

Erica MacDonald: (20:04)
Thank you for that. It was wonderful to hear you say that you came down with other members of the community to ask for peace. And that’s probably the most positive thing I’ve heard here all day. So I cannot begin to thank you enough for that. And to the extent you can share that and you can share the integrity and honesty of what we’re doing and trying to tell you what’s going on please do, because we need you. We need the community, but it’s really important that we emphasize that everybody in the United States is entitled to due process of law. And due process of law requires us as prosecutors, as law enforcement officers, to make sure that we’ve done a careful investigation. And it requires us as I told you, I tried as a judge I presided over hundreds of cases, including first degree murder cases. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is that all your ducks are in a row before you make that charging decision. But you can’t undo what you’ve done if you rush. But if you take that time, you’re going to do it right the first time and you’re going to get it done the first time.

Speaker 11: (21:17)
I have a question about National Guard [inaudible 00:21:22]. I think there is [inaudible 00:21:25].

Mike Freeman: (21:31)
Well first off the decision to call the national guard is the governor’s decision and I support his decision. Second, since I’d Hennepin County attorney I tried to do be the best prosecutor I can be and run the best office. And I try to stay out of other people’s business. Okay? So on the streets and the law enforcement is not my business directly. I do encourage people not to do dangerous things and to harm other people or property. But I could say to you that we just can’t rush this. I’ve been involved in a number of these investigations. The BCA has got their most veteran people and they are good.

Mike Freeman: (22:17)
I have leading the prosecution team, the two prosecutors that brought justice in the Justine Damond case. And as I said to you earlier, it’s one of the few successful murder convictions of a police officer over using force in the country. And I had a lot of pressure to hurry that and to do it quickly. You can’t do that. These need to be done right. Please, give me and give United States attorney the time to do this right and we will bring you justice. I promise.

Speaker 12: (22:59)
Are the police officers cooperating?

Speaker 13: (22:59)
[inaudible 00:22:53].

Mike Freeman: (23:25)
As many as you know from covering these kinds of cases for a long time, each of the facts are different and each of them have to be addressed differently. I assure you that if the person who had committed the act and I do not condone or respect the act done by the police officer to Mr. Floyd. That was excessive and that was wrong. The question in my business is, is it criminal? That’s what I have to prove. And there are cases that you can quickly and easily evaluate.

Mike Freeman: (24:03)
There are cases that you can quickly and easily evaluate. Most of the cases, particularly cop use of force cases, are specifically more complex and have to be done right, and we’re committed to doing it right. Sir, you.

Speaker 17: (24:14)
Are the police officers [crosstalk 00:24:16]-

Erica MacDonald: (24:15)
Mike, can I answer? I want to answer that question as well, if I may. You know, it’s important for… I 100% agree with you. That is the question, right. It is the question that people in my office are asking. It’s a question. We were all feeling the pain of watching that. But this is what needs to be understood is, and I know you all understand this, but to the extent I’m speaking to the community. Police officers, by the nature of their job, have the authority to use a certain amount of force when they’re executing their duties faithfully and honestly, and in accordance with their policies. And so a lot of police officer, a law enforcement officer, has within the latitude of their scope of duty, the ability to use the right amount of force, but not excessive force, not excessive force as defined by the law. And so that is what we are looking at with respect to any federal criminal violation of civil rights, is that issue of excessive force.

Speaker 16: (25:16)
One more question. One more. [crosstalk 00:25:18].

Speaker 17: (25:17)
[inaudible 00:25:17] and your office in particular [inaudible 00:25:24].

Erica MacDonald: (25:27)
I can tell you that every United States attorney of all my colleagues that are out there, we are vested with doing what’s right for our state at the time. Of course, we’re part of the Department of Justice. William Barr, I report to the DAG who then reports to the Deputy Attorney General, who then reports to the Attorney General. But every United States attorney is given the discretion in their community to pursue the charges and to follow the leads where they are, and to pursue the case as they deem appropriate. I am however keeping my boss in communication in briefing so that he understands the investigation that’s going on here in the state of Minnesota.

Speaker 17: (26:04)
Are people who [inaudible 00:26:05] coming from Minneapolis [inaudible 00:26:07]?

Erica MacDonald: (26:07)
I should’ve made clear, too, one thing. And I know it was in our statement that we issued last night, but on our team of experienced trial attorneys, which are the most experienced in my office, I can tell you. I’ve been in viewing the evidence with my criminal chief, with my first assistant, United States Attorney Anders Folk, with my deputy criminal chiefs, we’re all in there together. But we’re also partnering with the Civil Rights Division from Department of Justice. The Civil Rights Division has an experience of doing these cases nationally. They bring with that expertise of understanding the requirements of 18 USC 242, which is the violation of law that we’re specifically addressing. And so, yes, we are partnering with Department of Justice to use their expertise and their resources, but we are leading the investigation and we are working collaboratively with our state and local partners and federal partners.

Speaker 17: (26:56)
Have you spoken to the President about this?

Erica MacDonald: (26:59)
The resident is actively monitoring the situation, but I have not spoken to the President directly. No.

Speaker 18: (27:04)
Did you say you’re anticipating making an [inaudible 00:27:05] announcement today before coming out here? Can you tell us what the wait was about?

Erica MacDonald: (27:12)
I cannot. I can only ask you to trust me that it mattered, and that I hope that I can fill you in on that at the appropriate time, which I hope is soon.

Speaker 19: (27:23)
[inaudible 00:27:23] down here. [inaudible 00:27:24] detail what you were holding [inaudible 00:03:28]?

Erica MacDonald: (27:29)
I’m going to say the same thing again, but I appreciate the tenacity of asking the question again. I would not have needlessly wasted your time. It was important that the community understand that we are actively involved in this investigation. We are working round the clock. We have been for the last 72 hours and we’ll continue to do so to see that justice is done. Again, we’re going to do right, but we will act with dispatch and I will keep all of you informed as soon as there’s another development, and I will make sure that you, I promise, do not have to wait again. We’ll have it timed right.

Speaker 16: (28:03)
Okay, thanks everybody. Appreciate you coming.