It was late in the evening on Memorial Day when police reporter Libor Jany began receiving texts: Minneapolis police had “killed a guy.” As he pursued the tips, details were scant, with police department references to a medical issue with a man under arrest. Jany headed to the intersection of South 38th Street and Chicago Avenue, where the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension was on the scene.
Soon he and others learned more, thanks to a 17-year-old bystander who posted a video of the incident on Facebook: A police officer kneeled on the neck of a black man for nearly 9 minutes as he pleaded for his life; among the man’s last words, “I can’t breathe.”
On Twitter, Jany reported what he learned, and he shared his unanswered questions, including those about the original police version of events. He posted his first story at 3:30 a.m. Soon, he and the Star Tribune named the man: George Floyd. And the name of the officer: Derek Chauvin. As well as the three other officers there.
1/ The FBI is investigating a white Minneapolis police officer for possible civil rights violations after a video showed him kneeling on an African American man’s neck while the man, who later died, said he couldn’t breathe.
— Star Tribune (@StarTribune) May 26, 2020
The full force of the news staff joined Jany in the coverage, on the streets, digging into the history of the officers and George Floyd, reporting what police experts and city policy said about choke holds. We talked to the teen who shot the video. And officials, community leaders, neighbors, relatives of others who’d died at the hands of police. Photographers and videographers captured the drama, from the poignant memorial scene to buildings engulfed in flames as neighbors frantically sought to hose down their homes.
Within hours, the four officers at the scene were fired. Jany’s main story would be updated 115 times that day. We offered readers more than a dozen stories and videos that first day, on all platforms, as we reported the story.
As our community’s outrage and grief seethed during those first 36 hours , so did the protests. As the protests grew violent, law enforcement was overwhelmed and initially retreated. Soon lawless mayhem would take over and more than 1,000 businesses were destroyed, and neighbors took to the streets to defend themselves. Ultimately that outrage swept the nation and the world as our stunned and remorseful community looked on.
From Jany’s first tweets to the full-scale deployment of our news staff, the Star Tribune’s thorough, around-the-clock reporting of Floyd’s death and its aftermath merits consideration for the ONA Breaking News award.