George Floyd told Minneapolis police officers he couldn’t breathe more than 20 times, new transcripts show

A makeshift memorial for George Floyd near the site where he was detained and died with the knee of a police officer on his neck, in Minneapolis, Minn., June 2, 2020.

George Floyd’s dying moments have played on an endless loop, horrifying the world and prompting a spasm of street protests, but newly released evidence reveals an even more desperate scene than previously known in the moments before an officer pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck.

Floyd uttered “I can’t breathe” not a handful of times, as previous videotapes showed, but more than 20 times in all. He cried out not just for his dead mother but for his children, too. Before his final breaths, Floyd gasped: “They’ll kill me. They’ll kill me.”


As Floyd shouted for his life, an officer yelled back at him to “stop talking, stop yelling, it takes a heck of a lot of oxygen to talk.”

The chilling transcripts of Minneapolis police body camera footage, made public Wednesday, were filed in state court as part of an effort by one of the officers on the scene, Thomas Lane, 37, to have charges that he aided and abetted Floyd’s murder thrown out by a judge.


Floyd, 46, died after another officer, Derek Chauvin, 44, pressed his knee down onto Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes until he was no longer moving.

Chauvin, who was on the force for 19 years, faces second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter charges in Floyd’s death and up to 40 years in prison if he is convicted. Lane and J. Alexander Kueng, 26, who were both rookie officers, and Tou Thao, 34, also face 40 years in prison if convicted on charges of aiding and abetting Floyd’s murder. All four officers were fired.

Even before he was on the ground, Floyd said he was in physical distress, telling officers who were trying to get him into a squad car that he was claustrophobic and could not breathe.

At one point, according to one transcript, he said: “Momma, I love you. Tell my kids I love them. I’m dead.”

At another point, Chauvin asked if Floyd was high on something; Lane said he assumed so, and Kueng said they had found a pipe on him. One autopsy report found traces of illegal drugs in Floyd’s body.

“Relax,” Thao told Floyd.

“I can’t breathe,” Floyd said.

“You’re fine,” Kueng replied. “You’re talking fine.”


“Deep breath,” Lane added.

The new court filings include 82 pages of body camera transcripts as well as the 60-page transcript of Lane’s interview with investigators from Minnesota’s Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.

In that interview, when he was asked whether he felt at the time that Floyd was having a medical emergency, Lane replied, “Yeah, I felt maybe that something was going on.”

At the end of the interview, though, Lane’s lawyer, Earl Gray, objected when an investigator asked Lane whether he felt that either he or Chauvin had contributed to Floyd’s death.

“You’re not going to answer that,” Gray said. Lane did not answer the question.

Much of what had been known about Floyd’s final moments had come from bystander video, surveillance footage and probable cause statements released by prosecutors when they filed charges against the officers. But the body camera transcripts, and Lane’s interview with investigators, provide more details about Floyd’s exchange with officers, and how vociferously and persistently he had pleaded with them that he was having a medical emergency.


The filings include what Gray described as pictures from inside the car Floyd was sitting in when Lane first approached him. Officers had been called after a nearby store employee reported that Floyd had passed a counterfeit $20 bill. The pictures show two crumpled $20 bills that Gray said were counterfeit and that he said were found lodged between the center console and the passenger’s seat.

The filings also indicate that an ambulance, called early in the encounter, did not respond right away and initially went to the wrong spot.

According to the transcripts, Lane called for an ambulance after Floyd’s mouth started bleeding. Lane told investigators it was likely when Floyd banged his face on the glass inside of the squad car.

Lane then upgraded that ambulance request, from a less-serious “code 2” to a more serious “code 3,” after Floyd had repeatedly said he could not breathe and the officers discussed whether he could be high on drugs.

The transcripts zero in on the most critical moments of Floyd’s restraint by officers.

After Floyd says that the officers were going to kill him, Chauvin said, according to one of the transcripts, “Then stop talking, stop yelling, it takes a heck of a lot of oxygen to talk.”


While Floyd was being restrained on the ground, on his stomach, with Chauvin’s knee pressed onto his neck, Lane asked whether Floyd should be turned onto his side.

Chauvin said, “No, he’s staying put where we got him.”

Lane then said he was worried Floyd might be having a medical emergency.

“Well that’s why we got the ambulance coming,” Chauvin responded, according to one of the transcripts.

“OK, I suppose,” Lane replied, adding soon after, “I think he’s passing out.”

At that moment, a bystander shouted: “He’s not even breathing right now, bro, you think that’s cool? You think that’s cool, right?” Other onlookers repeatedly asked if Floyd had a pulse.


“You got one?” Lane asked. “I can’t find one,” Kueng said. “Huh?” Chauvin replied. Kueng tried again, and again said he could not find a pulse.

More than two minutes then went by, according to timestamps on the transcript of Kueng’s body camera footage. Still, Chauvin kept his knee on Floyd’s neck, videos show.

After the ambulance arrived, Lane rode with Floyd to a hospital alongside ambulance workers and performed chest compressions on him. One worker told Lane the ambulance waited to respond because it was called in as a “code 2 mouth injury.”

Breaking News Alerts

As it happens

Be informed of breaking news as it happens and notified about other don't-miss content with our free news alerts.

“And then as we’re sitting here, I’m like, ‘Now it says code 3, I just don’t understand,’ " the worker said, explaining what had happened. “And then we figured out where it was so, and then one of your officers was like, ‘Hey, hey ding-dongs, you’re at the wrong spot.’ "

The filings were the latest effort by Lane, who held Floyd’s legs while he was on the ground, to argue that he does not bear the responsibility for Floyd’s death that prosecutors say he does.

At Lane’s first court appearance a month ago, his lawyer, Gray, sought to emphasize Chauvin’s status as a senior officer who helped train rookies, and that the fateful encounter with Floyd had occurred on Lane’s fourth day on the force.


“They’re required to call him ‘Sir,’ " Gray said in court about Chauvin, who served as a field training officer, or FTO. “He has 20 years’ experience. What is my client supposed to do but to follow what the training officer said? Is that aiding and abetting a crime?”

In the court papers filed this week where he asks the judge to dismiss the charges against Lane, Gray argued that Lane, as a new officer, was taking his cues from Chauvin. He also stated that Lane believed that Floyd was on drugs “based on his behavior.”

After Chauvin refused to turn Floyd onto his side, Gray wrote in his filings, “Lane listened to FTO Chauvin and thought it made sense because there are times when a person who is OD’ing or passed out one minute but then comes back really aggressive.”

c.2020 The New York Times Company