The owner of a Minneapolis grocery store that George Floyd had just left when he encountered the police said his employee called him crying after witnessing an officer press his knee into the man’s neck.
The employee was “crying, telling me ‘Mike, Mike. What should I do? The guy can’t breathe. They’re killing him,'” Mike Abumayyaleh, the owner of Cup Foods, told NBC’s Gabe Gutierrez.
“I said, ‘Call the police on the police. And make sure it’s recorded.’ And she did that.”
Floyd, who was black, died Monday after a white Minneapolis police officer responding to a call about a forgery pressed his knee onto his neck for at least eight minutes. The incident was captured on video.
“Please, please, please, I can’t breathe,” Floyd begged as he was pinned to the ground. “My stomach hurts. My neck hurts. Please, please. I can’t breathe.”
Abumayyaleh was not at work the day of the incident but said Floyd was a regular at his store and he never had an issue with him in the past. On the day of the incident, Abumayyaleh said Floyd came in with a man and a woman.
The man tried to use what an employee suspected was a counterfeit $20 bill but an employee caught it, gave it back to the man and they left, Abumayyaleh said. Roughly 10 minutes later, Floyd came back in the store and used a suspicious $20 bill, according to the owner.
The employee didn’t immediately notice and Floyd left but the employee followed protocol and called the police. Floyd was still outside the store when officers arrived.
“What took place outside after that was not in our hands,” Abumayyaleh said. “The murder and execution was something done by the police and the abuse of power. The police brutality needs to stop.”
Abumayyaleh remembered Floyd as someone who was always pleasant. He said Floyd “may not have even known that the bill was counterfeit.”
The owner said he didn’t realize Floyd had died until the following morning. “We were all outraged.”
“Minorities are not being treated equal in this country and this is an issue that has to be addressed and fixed by our leaders in the community,” he added.
The death has led to protests in the city. Celebrities such as LeBron James, Ava DuVernay and Meek Mill have also been speaking out on social media.
Minneapolis police identified the other officers as Thomas Lane, Tou Thao and J. Alexander Kueng.
NBC’s attempts to obtain comments from the officers or their attorneys have been unsuccessful.
The Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis said in a statement that it was not the time to rush to judgment and that the officers were fully cooperating in the investigation.
“We must review all video. We must wait for the medical examiner’s report,” the statement said. “Officers’ actions and training protocol will be carefully examined after the officers have provided their statements.”
The mayor of Minneapolis called for charges to be filed against Chauvin. Police said Floyd resisted arrest, but Mayor Jacob Frey said he saw “nothing that would signal that this kind of force was necessary.”
Floyd’s death is being investigated by the FBI and the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.