The Lee County Sheriff’s Office fired a deputy after he teased an inmate saying he looked like George Floyd. He also asked the inmate to say “I can’t breathe” to mimic some of the last words the deceased Black man said.
Floyd passed away after former Minneapolis cop Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes despite pleading for his life and telling the law enforcement officer he couldn’t breathe.
According to WINK News, an internal affairs investigation into the July 25 incident by the Lee County Sheriff’s Office stated the fired deputy, identified as Rodney Payne, admitted to the allegation and said his comments stemmed from his “sh*tty humor.” Payne, who also said he’s a “jokester”, added that “his comments in hindsight were ‘in sh*tty taste’ and insensitive.”
Following investigations, it was established Payne’s conduct was in contravention of the Lee County Sheriff’s Office policies on improper conduct: derogatory remarks and improper conduct: conduct unbecoming an officer. He was subsequently relieved of his duties on August 26.
“Members of the Lee County Sheriff’s Office are held to the highest standards, and maintain a high degree of integrity and compassion,” Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno said in a statement, per Vice. “Unfortunately, this member failed to meet those standards, and as such I withdrew his appointment.”
An inmate who heard Payne’s reference to Floyd in the conversation reported him. The fired deputy also made those comments in the presence of his supervisor, Sgt. Christopher Cage. Internal investigations stated Cage said he “immediately shut down the conversation telling Deputy Payne his comments were insensitive and inappropriate.”
During investigations, an inmate who was spoken to said Payne made reference to another inmate resembling George Floyd after the fired deputy started a conversation with him. The inmate added that Payne also went ahead to imitate “gasping sounds referencing not being able to breathe.”
Floyd’s May 2020 death sparked nationwide protests in what was a summer of racial reckoning. Chauvin was convicted in his death and sentenced to 22 and a half years in prison in June. Three other officers – Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao – have also been charged with his death and are facing trial.