Video surfaces amid George Floyd death fallout showing SF police kneeling on man’s neck

Teen says he struggled to breathe during arrest: ‘I felt like I was going to die’

Newly surfaced cellphone video appears to show a San Francisco police officer pressing her knee into the neck of a man like the Minneapolis officer who now faces a murder charge in the death of George Floyd.

The cellphone footage, posted to social media on Friday, shows the female officer applying pressure to the neck of 19-year-old Kajon Busby while he is face down on the ground with three other officers detaining him.

The short clip is being circulated online because of its likeness to the video of fired Officer Derek Chauvin applying a similar technique to Floyd for some eight minutes until he became unresponsive.

Floyd’s death has prompted protests in cities around the U.S. including San Francisco and Oakland. It has also raised serious concerns about the knee restraint technique used in the video.

“I felt like I was going to die,” Busby said in an interview with the San Francisco Examiner on Saturday. He is an African American teenager who works as a security guard patrolling Muni train yards.

In response to the video, Police Chief Bill Scott has ordered an administrative investigation into the incident, including a review of the images posted online and body-worn camera footage from the case.

Scott has also asked the Department of Police Accountability to conduct an independent investigation and directed San Francisco Police Department trainers to determine whether any training updates are necessary.

“SFPD is committed to conducting a thorough review of the incident and cooperating fully with the independent and impartial investigation by the [DPA],” police said in a statement.

Public Defender Manohar Raju echoed the need for an investigation and said he was “disturbed and sickened to see this violence being perpetrated by San Francisco police officers.”

“Police who abuse their power should not be wearing a badge,” Raju said in a statement to the Examiner. “We are a country in mourning after the murder of George Floyd, and to see this image of SFPD treating a 19-year-old San Franciscan this way is shocking.”

But Tony Montoya, president of the San Francisco Police Officers Association, suggested that the officer did not kneel on Busby’s neck.

“To effectuate an arrest, a department approved restraint was applied to the suspect’s upper shoulder blade and until the suspect was under control and then the restraint was released,” Montoya said in a statement.

“Any attempt to equate this lawful action to the tragic death of George Floyd is disingenuous and appears aimed at inflaming the emotions of people as they are rightfully angry with Mr. Floyd’s death,” he added.

The news comes a day after Scott joined police chiefs from around the nation in applauding the decision to fire the four officers involved in the Floyd case, calling the video of the arrest “extremely disturbing.”

While SFPD policy does not directly address knee restraints, officers are banned from using choke holds or any “choking by means of pressure to the subject’s trachea or other means that prevent breathing.”

Officers are, however, allowed to use physical controls to restrain suspects who are being uncooperative or resisting arrest and can use their knees as “personal body weapons” to gain control of a subject.

The San Francisco video captured just 23 seconds of the encounter with police, so it is unclear from the footage whether Busby resisted arrest, but he recalled the officer kneeling on him for around five minutes.

The incident happened in Hunters Point in late January when Busby woke up to a phone call saying that his neighbor had stolen his dog, he said. When Busby went to talk to his neighbors about the missing dog, police came and told him to leave the area.

Busby said he was about to leave when officers grabbed him and brought him to the ground, where he was detained for five to 10 minutes. He denied being uncooperative or resisting arrest.

Busby struggled to breathe or talk while the officer had her knee on the back of his neck during the arrest, he said. The video showed her pressing on his head and body with her hands as she knelt on his neck.

“There’s no need to have this technique,” Busby said. “They need to change something about that because it’s killing.”

Jail records show officers booked Busby into County Jail on suspicion of criminal threats and resisting arrest Jan. 25. He said he spent five nights in jail and that he is currently facing charges.

“My neck was all bruised and messed up,” said Busby.

But Montoya, the police union head, said Busby was not injured.

“Our officers checked on the suspect for injuries,” he said. “No injuries were reported and no complaint was filed.”

Police said the incident happened on Atoll Circle and that Busby is alleged to have threatened his neighbor.

In the video, the officer with her knee on his neck told a man filming the encounter that Busby disobeyed an order to leave the area.

“Ya’ll doing too much blood, all he was doing was talking shit,” the cameraman can be heard saying.

The officer responded, “we gave you a chance to leave, right? You guys didn’t want to. We ordered you to leave, you guys didn’t want to.”

At the end of the video, another officer can be heard asking whether Busby is injured before the footage cuts off.

Busby said he did not realize his arrest was similar to that of Floyd’s until his cousin, Danny Langford, posted the video on social media.

“I want something to change,” Langford said. “I want whatever type of case that he got to be dropped because this is not fair.”

The video has also prompted social media posters to misidentify one of the officers involved in the incident, resulting in threats being made against that officer, police said.

An investigation has been launched into those threats. A police spokesperson declined to name the officer involved.

Police are expected to release body-worn camera footage of the incident.

Update May 31, 2:27 p.m.: Police have released body-worn camera footage showing new perspectives of the incident. The footage reveals that the encounter lasted for a shorter period of time than Busby recalled.

The footage is linked at the bottom of the police statement here. A version of the body-worn camera footage synced with the short clip can also be viewed here.

mbarba@sfexaminer.com

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