George Floyd, man killed by Minneapolis police, remembered as kind, soft-spoken

Tracy Gordon lays down flowers at a memorial erected for George Floyd in south Minneapolis on May 26, 2020. Ricardo Lopez/Minnesota Reformer

Gerald Chambers, at times overcome by grief, recalled George Floyd as a kind and good-hearted man from their time working together at Salvation Army. 

Chambers on Tuesday joined nearly 100 people who had gathered at the intersection of Chicago Ave and 38th St. to protest the death of Floyd, who Minneapolis police had detained after receiving a call for forgery. 

People began gathering at the intersection ahead of a planned 5 p.m. protest.

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A video circulating on social media Monday appeared to show a white police officer with his knee on the neck of Floyd, who can be heard desperately telling the officer he couldn’t breathe. Minnesota elected officials condemned the killing, and the FBI and the Minnesota Bureau of Investigation are on the case.

Four Minneapolis police officers involved in Floyd’s death have been fired, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey wrote in a Twitter post Tuesday afternoon. “This is the right call,” Frey’s Tweet says.

Demonstrators at the intersection held signs reading “Black Lives Matter,” while a memorial erected on the sidewalk for Floyd quickly teemed with flowers.

Chambers said he used to work at Salvation Army as a cook where Floyd was also a security guard. “Any time I had a problem, he was always nice,” he recalled, describing him as soft-spoken. “He was never violent with individuals. He was a big guy, he was intimidating by his size, but he’s a very nice guy.” 

Chambers and others who gathered Tuesday afternoon said they were angry and emotional. 

“When they showed his picture this morning, I cried,” Chambers said. 

“My heart is broken,” said Tracy Gordon, who attends Worldwide Outreach for Christ church at the same intersection. 

Gordon wore a shirt with the words, “I can’t breathe,” the final words of Eric Garner, the New York Black man who died at the hands of police officers in 2014.

“There’s no reason for that man to be choked to death,” she said, referring to Floyd. 

Diva Reynolds, who was in Minneapolis from Ohio on an extended visit with family, said her 9-year-old daughter witnessed the Monday night incident. .

Reynolds said her daughter and another family member had come to the Cup Foods grocery store at the intersection Monday night when police detained Floyd. 

“We want justice,” she said. “Not just for one person, but for everybody. Everybody should be safe.”

Ricardo Lopez
Ricardo Lopez is the senior political reporter for the Reformer. Ricardo is not new to Minnesota politics, previously reporting on the Dayton administration and statehouse for The Star Tribune from 2014 to 2017, and the Republican National Convention in 2016. Previously, he was a staff writer at The Los Angeles Times covering the California economy. He's a Las Vegas native who has adopted Minnesota as his home state. In his spare time, he likes to run, cook and volunteer with Save-a-Bull, a Minneapolis dog rescue group.