After telling a prisoner in his custody that he looked like George Floyd and then asking him to say, “I can’t breathe,” a Lee County Sheriff’s Office deputy was fired.
Witnesses told investigators they observed Deputy First Class Rodney Payne make the comparison between Floyd and an unidentified inmate in July.
An internal affairs investigation found Deputy First Class Rodney Payne of the Lee County Sheriff's office told an inmate that he "looked like George Floyd" and asked him to say "I can't breathe."
Payne commented in the presence of his immediate supervisor.https://t.co/88SofZLg6T
— Florida Times-Union (@jaxdotcom) September 16, 2021
“The Sheriff’s Office investigation found that Payne’s supervisor immediately told the deputy to stop the comments, saying it was inappropriate,” writes USA Today. “Several inmates also heard the remark and one filed a complaint via email, he said, because the targeted inmate was likely to not complain in fear of retaliation.”
After a video showing Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin standing on the back of Floyd’s neck until he suffocated went public on the internet, Floyd’s death in 2020 spurred widespread protests against police violence.
In an interview with investigators, Payne admitted that his remarks regarding Floyd were inappropriate and that they violated police conduct guidelines.
Floyd, who was hancuffed and prone, shouted repeatedly, “I can’t breathe,” while Kueng and Lane assisted in his restraint and Thao kept onlookers at bay. Chauvin was sentenced to 270 months in jail, or 22 1/2 years, for Floyd’s murder in June.
Judge Peter Cahill of Hennepin County, who presided over Chauvin’s murder trial, sentenced him to 270 months in prison on charges of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter in Floyd’s death on May 25, 2020. Chauvin was given credit for 199 days in prison. On April 20, a jury found him guilty of the counts.
“What the sentence is not based on is emotion or sympathy,” Cahill said. “But at the same time, I want to acknowledge the deep and tremendous pain that all the families are feeling, especially the Floyd family. I’m not going to attempt to be profound or clever because it’s not the appropriate time. I’m not basing my sentence on public opinion. I’m not basing it on any attempt to send any messages.”
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For Floyd’s killing, Chauvin faced a lengthy prison sentence. According to Minnesota law, the most serious charge, second-degree murder, carries a sentence of up to 40 years in prison. Third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter, on the other hand, carry sentences of up to 25 and 10 years in prison, respectively. Prosecutors sought a sentence of 30 years in prison, but Chauvin’s lawyer, Eric Nelson, requested probation and time served. Floyd’s family pushed for the highest penalty.
“For once, a police officer who wrongly took the life of a Black man was held to account. While this shouldn’t be exceptional, tragically it is. Day after day, year after year, police kill Black people without consequence. But today, with Chauvin’s sentence, we take a significant step forward – something that was unimaginable a very short time ago.
According to the Florida Sheriff’s Office investigation, Payne’s supervisor immediately warned the deputy to stop making the remarks, claiming that they were inappropriate. Several other inmates heard the remark as well, and one filed an email complaint, he added, because the targeted inmate was unlikely to report for fear of retaliation.