KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Missouri Gov. Mike Parson was a state senator in 2014 when Mike Brown’s death in Ferguson, Missouri, triggered riots and statewide protests.
As a former law enforcement officer, Parson said the death of a Minneapolis man in police custody earlier this week “didn’t look too good” when asked about George Floyd’s death Thursday during his daily press briefing.
Bystander video showed a since-fired Minneapolis police officer kneeling on Floyd’s neck for several minutes.
He was unresponsive and had no pulse by the emergency medical technicians arrived at the scene around 8:30 p.m. on Monday.
Floyd, who can be heard on the video pleading that he couldn’t breathe as Officer Derek Chauvin pinned his neck with a knee, was pronounced dead a short time later at a Minneapolis hospital.
“I was in law enforcement for a long time,” Parson said. “You see what’s going on in other cities, you never want to see that. ... When you get in those positions, you’ve got to be held to a pretty high standard.”
Parson cautioned that he’d only seen the bystander video, so he didn’t have a full picture of the encounter but added that it was “probably not the best of circumstances.”
“As a normal person, it didn’t look too good what happened there ...,” Parson said. “Law enforcement’s primary job is to help people and not hurt people.”
Parson spent six years in the U.S. Army, including two tours as a military policeman, and served as a law enforcement officer in his native Hickory County, Missouri, for three years after his military discharge.
Later, he served for 12 years as the Polk County, Missouri, sheriff before being elected to the Missouri House of Representatives in 2004.
Local law enforcement officials also weighed in Thursday.
"To watch a man, beg for his life for so long and his prayers go unanswered is devastating," Kansas City Fraternal Order of Police President Brad Lemon wrote in a post on the Lodge 99 Facebook page.
Lemon added that he "cannot stop wishing that one of those officers would have stopped it" after watching the video of Chauvin with his knee on Floyd's neck.
"Thousands of officers patrol this country every day and perform their duties with professionalism," Lemon continued. "I am proud of the work we do, but there is no question this video shows that we can all strive to be better. While the video breaks my heart, I cannot imagine how communities of color must feel. The fear and pain many people in those communities feel today is real."
Lemon noted that departments across the country "have spent years training and learning about our cultural differences," adding that "we will not defend what they did" and "understand others will look at us with suspicion."
"We cannot heal these wounds without conversations such as this," Lemon said. "A lot of families were shattered over this event, but one family will never see their son or brother again."
The Kansas City, Missouri, Police Department told 41 Action News that it is working on a training video, which will remind and reiterate "proper control techniques" for its officers in response to Floyd's death in police custody.
Acknowledging Floyd's death on Twitter, KCPD also said it "is committed to training our officers to protect and preserve life."
(1/2) The tragedy in Minneapolis has impacted all of us. We recognize our community has questions. KCPD is committed to training our officers to protect and preserve life.— kcpolice (@kcpolice) May 28, 2020
Floyd's death has touched off deadly riots this week in Minneapolis and across the country.