George Floyd's Brother Gives Emotional Interview on CNN: "I Need Justice"

Philonise Floy Don Lemon - H Screenshot 2020
Screenshot/Courtesy of CNN

Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo tells Philonise Floyd that he believes all four police officers were complicit in his brother's death.

The brother of George Floyd appeared on CNN on Sunday night, where he broke down in tears as he gave an interview to Don Lemon and asked the Minneapolis police chief to arrest three additional officers who were present at the time of Floyd's death.

Wearing a T-shirt that read "We can't breathe," Philonise Floyd was asked what his thoughts are about the protests happening across the country.

"People just want justice," he said. "They're going to continue to march and protest, and if I ask everybody to do it peaceful — but they want justice, and that's the reason they're acting out like that. … Black folks have been getting killed for a long time now, years. … People are just tired right now. African Americans, they want to stand up for what's right."

George Floyd died last Monday while in police custody in Minneapolis. Officer Derek Chauvin was arrested and charged Friday with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. He also was accused of ignoring another officer who expressed concerns about Floyd, who was African American, as he lay handcuffed on the ground, pleading that he could not breathe, and saying "Mama" and "please," while Chauvin, who is white, pressed his knee into his neck for several minutes. Floyd had been arrested on suspicion of using a counterfeit bill at a store.

Floyd's death sparked protests over police killings of African Americans in Minneapolis, which then spread to cities across the U.S.

In reference to the protests, some of which have turned violent, Philonise Floyd said: "Everything that's happening right now, it's not happening because of what they're doing. People are jumping on them. People are killing them. African Americans, you have women and men both are dying right now. You can watch the video and it was nine minutes, the guy stayed on my brother's neck. Executed him, murdered him. He couldn't breathe. … A grown man [asking] for his mom. That's not real. I need justice for that."

Chauvin, who was fired along with three other officers who were at the scene, faces more than 12 years in prison if convicted of murder.  

Three other officers also were present but have not been arrested: Tou Thao, who was videotaped watching as Chauvin continued to press on Floyd's neck with his knee; J. Alexander Kueng, one of the two first officers at the scene who helped pin Floyd down; and Thomas K. Lane.

Philonise Floyd made a plea for the arrest and conviction of the other three police officers. 

"They're at home right now sleeping in their bed, relaxing. [Chauvin's] in jail, he's only one. The other three need to be in there. My brother — he's in the morgue. That's not right. I want justice now. He deserves that. He's a gentle giant."

Cutting into the broadcast, CNN correspondent Sara Sidner, reporting from the Minneapolis intersection where Floyd died last week, conducted a live interview with Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo as Philonise Floyd listened in.

Arradondo said he came to the location to pay his respects to George Floyd and "offer a prayer for his loved ones, his family and our community that's hurting."

Asked why he moved relatively quickly to fire the four officers, Arradondo said: "There are absolute truths in life. We need air to breathe. The killing of Mr. Floyd was an absolute truth, that it was wrong, and so I did not need days or weeks or months or processes or bureaucracies to tell me that what occurred out here last Monday was wrong."

He said he got "emotional" as he watched the video of Floyd struggling to breathe as Chauvin continued to pin him down with his knee.

"This was a violation of humanity," he said. "This was a violation of the oath that the majority of the men and women that put this uniform on — this goes absolutely against it. This is contrary to what we believe in. What occurred to me, it was an absolute truth that it was wrong, period."

Asked what he'd like to tell the Floyd family, Arradondo took his police uniform hat off and said: "I am absolutely devastatingly sorry for their loss, and if I could do anything to bring Mr. Floyd back, I would move heaven and earth to do that."

Philonise Floyd then asked the chief, through Sidner, if he would "get justice for my brother" and arrest and convict the other three officers who were present at the time. 

Taking his hat off again, Arradondo replied: "Being silent or not intervening, to me, you're complicit. So I don't see a level of distinction that's any different. Obviously the charging and those decisions have to come through our county attorney's office, certainly the FBI is investigating that, but I want you to know my decision to fire all four officers was not based on some sort of hierarchy. Mr. Floyd died in our hands, and so I see that as being complicit. … I don't see a difference in terms of the ultimate outcome, [which] is he is not here with us. … Silence and inaction — you're complicit. If there were one solitary voice that would have intervened and acted, that's what I would have hoped for. That did not occur."

Philonise Floyd replied: "They arrest guys every day. They had enough evidence to fire them, so they have enough evidence to arrest them. I don't know who he's talking to, but I need him to do it, because we all are listening. Black lives matter."

Sidner became emotional as she realized that this was the first time that Philonise had had any interaction with the police department, and that it was being conduced through her. She also mentioned she'd never heard a police chief say what he said in her 12 years of covering protests.

Added his attorney, Ben Crump: "He was very respectful to the family and we thank him for that. Black Americans keep getting killed by police and nobody's held accountable. It's an expression of righteous anger that people are expressing all across America. But even as much pain as Philonise is going through, he's still asking people to be peaceful because we don't want innocent people to be affected."

During the CNN broadcast, titled I Can't Breathe: Black Men Living and Dying in America, Lemon also interviewed Spike Lee, who said he doesn't condone the violence "but I understand why people are doing what they are doing." 

He also debuted a short film called Three Brothers: Radio Raheem, Eric Garner and George Floyd. Raheem is a character in Lee's 1989 film Do the Right Thing, while Garner is another African American, who, like Floyd, died in police custody. Real-life footage of Garner and Floyd was intercut with similar scenes from the film that showed Raheem suffering brutality at the hands of police officers and ultimately dying. Watch Lee's short film below (warning: it's graphic).

Jane Fonda also made an appearance, where she noted that people behind the Black Lives Matter movement and the Color of Change organization are not responsible for the violence that has been part of some of the protests.

She added of what's happening: "More and more white people are getting it. When Donald Trump was elected and the Band-Aid was torn off and people could see very blatantly the racism in this country, that's always been there, but it was reveled in a new and more robust way to us and encouraged by this administration, I think a lot of white people got it."