TOP OF THE HOUR:
— President Trump says police “have not been treated fairly.”
— Prosecutors acknowledge Floyd pinned by Minneapolis officers for 7:46.
— Portland, Oregon cutting police budget by $16 million.
— Statue of African American tennis star Arthur Ashe vandalized in his hometown of Richmond, Virginia.
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump weighed in on the shooting of Rayshard Brooks and the Atlanta police officer charged Wednesday with felony murder during an interview on Fox News.
Trump said “you can’t resist a police officer” and said he heard an explanation from Garrett Rolfe’s lawyer that the officer heard a sound like a gunshot and saw a flash in front of him.
“I don’t know that I would have necessarily believed that, but I will tell you, that’s a very interesting thing and maybe that’s so,” Trump said. “They are going to have to find out. It’s up to Justice right now. It’s going to be up to Justice. I hope he gets a fair shake because police have not been treated fairly in our country. They have not been treated fairly.”
MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota prosecutors acknowledged Wednesday that a police officer had his knee on George Floyd’s neck for 7 minutes, 46 seconds — not the 8:46 that has become a global symbol of police brutality.
The initial complaint alleges Derek Chauvin “had his knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds in total. Two minutes and 53 seconds of this was after Mr. Floyd was non-responsive.” But timestamps cited in the document’s description of the incident, much of which was caught on video, showed Chauvin had his knee on Floyd for 7 minutes, 46 seconds, including 1 minute, 53 seconds after Floyd appeared to stop breathing.
Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman’s office said in a statement that “these kinds of technical matters” can be handled in a future amendment to the criminal case if it becomes necessary.
The Associated Press began asking about the error the day after the initial charges were filed, but prosecutors had repeatedly declined to address it as their 8 minutes and 46 seconds began to be used by protesters around the globe for its symbolism.
SEATTLE — Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes says his lawyers will review all the misdemeanor cases referred to his office involving peaceful protesters and some could be dismissed or referred to a restorative-justice program.
The Seattle Times reports Holmes said Wednesday that after weeks of anguished demonstrations over the death of George Floyd in Minnesota and the killing of other black people around the country, it is plain to him that peaceful protesters should not be prosecuted despite having been arrested during events that have sometimes devolved into violent and destructive confrontations with Seattle police and supporting law enforcement agencies.
Thirty-seven misdemeanor cases have been referred to Holmes’ office for offenses such as obstructing police, failure to disperse and resisting arrest. Most of the arrests came in the week after the first Seattle protest on May 29, four days after Floyd died after a Minneapolis officer pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck as he pleaded for air.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A private college in West Virginia said Wednesday it is removing the name of the late U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd from its health center, saying his name had caused “divisiveness and pain” without explicitly noting his complicated past on racial matters.
Byrd was a member of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1940s but subsequently denounced the organization. He served in the Senate for 51 years and died in 2010 at age 92.
Bethany College President Tamara Rodenberg said on the school’s website that Byrd’s name will be removed from the college’s Robert C. Byrd Health Center “to demonstrate Bethany College’s capacity to change, to listen, and to learn.”
Bethany’s statement did not specifically mention Byrd’s past ties to the Klan.
“Our lives are marked by decisions, by actions, and by grace, and today we embrace all three in a tangible, visible way at our beloved Bethany College,” Rodenberg wrote.
Bethany College’s statement said the college recognized in the past few weeks that Byrd’s name attached to the health center “created divisiveness and pain for members of Bethany community, both past and present.”
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Little Rock is banning police from using neck restraints following nationwide protests over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Mayor Frank Scott said Wednesday.
Scott signed an executive order banning use of the restraints or officers being trained on them, and also requiring officers to intervene to stop their use if they witness it. Scott’s order also requires the city to create and maintain a database on the restraints’ use and any corrective actions taken against officers for using them.
Little Rock Police Chief Keith Humphrey said the department had already banned chokeholds but had allowed a technique known as a “vascular neck restraint.”
The order doesn’t prohibit an officer from using “any reasonable force” if because of actual physical contact they face immediate threat of death or serious injury to themselves or anyone in their immediate vicinity.
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — A city council in West Virginia has unanimously approved a proposal to make Juneteenth a permanent city holiday. The celebration, which commemorates the end of slavery in the U.S., is held annually on June 19.
Huntington Mayor Steve Williams told council members before Wednesday’s vote that it was important for city leaders to make such a statement.
“It doesn’t change the matter of life and livelihood for our African-American, black neighbors in our community,” Williams said. “But it does send a message. It sends a message that we’re standing shoulder to shoulder, arm in arm, heart to heart, that we have every expectation — not intention — expectation that we’re going to stand by them and make sure that the injustices that are present in our society are overcome.”
The city of about 45,000 residents along the Ohio River has a black population of about 9%.
Williams said the idea came from meetings with his diversity advisory committee amid the international protests following the death of George Floyd, a black man who died after a Minneapolis officer pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck as he pleaded for air.
City workers will get the paid holiday off.
BATON ROUGE, La. — A Louisiana lawmaker’s effort to eliminate police officers’ wide immunity from civil lawsuits for damages for injury or death was shelved by Republicans on a state House committee.
The House civil law committee voted 9-7 Wednesday against the measure from Democratic Rep. Edmond Jordan.
More than a dozen black lawmakers stood together in the room to support Jordan’s bill. After the vote, some left in tears.
Supporters of the bill said the immunity is so sweeping that it’s nearly impossible to hold officers accountable for excessive force when prosecutors refuse to bring criminal charges.
Opponents said legal avenues exist to prosecute police for excessive force. The Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association said the measure would make it harder for officers to combat crime.
The vote fell largely along party lines. Two GOP lawmakers joined Democrats in backing the measure, which was proposed after the death last month of George Floyd while in Minneapolis police custody and other recent instances of police brutality.
PORTLAND, Ore. — City commissioners voted Wednesday to cut $16 million from the Portland Police Bureau’s budget in response to concerns about police brutality and racial injustice.
The cuts are part of a city budget approved by the commissioners in a 3-1 vote. The money saved by eliminating the gun reduction violence team, school resource officers and transit officers will be redirected to social service programs. The lone commissioner to vote no said the cuts to police weren’t deep enough.
Thousands of protesters have filled the streets of Portland every night for three weeks following the death of George Floyd, a handcuffed black man who died in police custody in Minneapolis on Memorial Day.
ATLANTA — Prosecutors brought murder charges against the white Atlanta police officer who shot Rayshard Brooks in the back, saying Brooks was not a deadly threat and the officer kicked the wounded black man and offered no medical treatment for more than two minutes as he lay dying on the ground.
Brooks, 27, was holding a stun gun he had snatched from officers, and he fired it at them during the clash, but he was running away at the time and was 18 feet, 3 inches from Officer Garrett Rolfe when Rolfe started shooting, District Attorney Paul Howard said in announcing the charges. Stun guns have a range of around 15 feet.
“I got him!” the prosecutor quoted Rolfe as saying.
The felony murder charge against Rolfe, 27, carries life in prison or the death penalty, if prosecutors decide to seek it. He was also charged with 10 other offenses punishable by decades behind bars.
Ahead of the district attorney’s announcement, Rolfe’s lawyers issued a statement saying the officer feared for his safety and that of others around him and was justified in shooting Brooks. Rolfe opened fire after hearing a sound “like a gunshot and saw a flash in front of him,” apparently from the stun gun.
The decision to prosecute came less than five days after the killing outside a Wendy’s restaurant rocked a city — and a nation — already roiled by the death of George Floyd under a police officer’s knee in Minneapolis late last month.
A second officer, Devin Brosnan, 26, was charged with aggravated assault and violating his oath. Brosnan’s lawyer, Amanda Clark Palmer, said the charges against the officer were baseless.
Rolfe was fired after the shooting, and Brosnan was placed on desk duty.
Later on Wednesday, there were reports that Atlanta police officers were walking off the job or calling in sick to protest the charges against Rolfe and Brosnan. The APD said on Twitter that it was experiencing a higher than usual number of officers calling out for their shifts but, “We have enough resources to maintain operations & remain able to respond to incidents.”
BOSTON — Police officers in Massachusetts would have to be certified by the state under a bill filed Wednesday by Gov. Charlie Baker.
The bill would also allow for the decertification of officers who engage in excessive force, and it encourages additional training, including for advanced deescalation techniques.
Massachusetts is one of only a few states without a statewide certification program for law enforcement.
The Republican governor said his administration worked with members of the Massachusetts Black and Latino Legislative Caucus and public safety officials to draft the bill.
Baker said at a press conference that the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis at the hands of police officers made it clear it’s “the time to get this done.” He added that improving law enforcement is only one piece of the process.
RICHMOND, Va. — A statue of African American tennis star Arthur Ashe has been vandalized.
Photos show the base of the monument tagged with white spray paint and the words “white lives matter” as well as the initials “WLM.” Those initials were later painted over with “BLM,” short for black lives matter.
Richmond Police said they were alerted to the vandalism on Monument Avenue about 10:15 a.m. Wednesday. Police say red paint on the statue itself was already being removed by community members.
Authorities have information on possible suspects and are asking the community to call the Crime Stoppers line if they have information on who was responsible for the vandalism.
The monument was dedicated in 1996 to memorialize the Richmond native, who died in 1993, and to counterbalance the string of statues on Memorial Avenue dedicated to Confederate leaders.
LAS VEGAS — The University of Nevada, Las Vegas has removed a statue of its “Hey Reb!” mascot from in front of its alumni center following an outcry from student groups, including the Native American Student Association.
The decision to remove the bronze statue, which was criticized for its relationship to the Confederacy, came weeks after the death of George Floyd while in police custody in Minneapolis.
University President Marta Meana says she has had conversations with individuals and stakeholders about how the university can move forward in light of recent events.
The statue is expected to be returned to its donors.
NEW YORK — New York’s governor signed an executive order recognizing Juneteenth as a paid holiday for state employees to commemorate the emancipation of slaves in the U.S.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo called it “a day we should all reflect upon” and “a day that is especially relevant in this moment in history.” Cuomo said he’ll propose legislation next year making June 19 a permanent state holiday.
President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation was effective Jan. 1, 1863, but the news took time to travel. It wasn’t until June 19, 1865, when word of the proclamation was brought by the Union army to enslaved people in Texas.
AMSTERDAM — Vandals have daubed red paint and the word “racist” on a statue of Mohandas Gandhi in Amsterdam, amid a wave of attacks on statues around the world of controversial historical figures.
A worker cleaned the statue Wednesday with a high-pressure water hose. Gandhi, widely lauded for his peaceful campaign to win independence for India, has faced criticism for some of his writings about black Africans.
A lawyer, Gandhi traveled to South Africa in 1893 and stayed for two decades, fighting to expand rights for Indians there. He has faced criticism for referring in his writings to black South Africans as backward. However, he later changed his views and supported the rights of black South Africans.
His nonviolent resistance methods have been used in movements for civil rights and freedom across the world.
DETROIT — A white suburban Detroit police chief has been suspended for 30 days without pay and will undergo diversity training for inappropriate social media posts about people protesting the death of George Floyd.
Trustees in Macomb County’s Shelby Township voted 5-2 on Tuesday night on the punishment for chief Robert J. Shelide, who has held the title since 2015.
Shelide, who earlier apologized, told the township board before the vote that he is “not a racist” and “I bleed blue.”
Shelide had been on administrative leave the past two weeks while officials investigated posts on a now-deleted Twitter account. Screenshots posted on Facebook show one tweet spoke about the need to “unleash real cops” and describing protesters as “barbarians” and needing “body bags.“
PORTLAND, Ore. — Police say a man drove his car into a crowd of protesters early Wednesday in downtown Portland, injuring three people.
Police say the 27-year-old male driver drove away “at a high rate of speed,” but was tracked and arrested on suspicion of hit and run, reckless driving and possession of a controlled substance, according to The Oregonian/OregonLive.
Two people were taken by ambulance to a hospital. Another was taken for treatment in a personal car. Police say none of the injuries were life-threatening.
GENEVA — The brother of George Floyd has made a heartfelt plea to the U.N.’s top human rights body to launch intense international scrutiny of systemic racism and the killing of unarmed blacks by police.
Philonese Floyd’s message by video to the Human Rights Council came as it contemplates an unprecedented bid sought by the Africa Group to create a Commission of Inquiry — the council’s most powerful tool of scrutiny — to examine and report on racism and violence against protesters by police in the United States.
“I am my brother’s keeper. You in the United Nations are your brothers and sisters’ keepers in America — and you have the power to help us get justice for my brother George Floyd,” Floyd said. “I am asking you to help him. I am asking you to help me. I am asking you to help us: Black people in America.”