Muhammad Muhaymin Jr.
Bodycam footage reveals new details in death of Muhammad Muhaymin Jr.
04:19 - Source: CNN
CNN  — 

With at least three officers on his legs and back — and yet another applying a knee to his head and neck — the Black man in his 40s cries out “I can’t breathe” multiple times.

“Please Allah,” he says.

“Allah? He’s not going to help you now,” one of the officers struggling to cuff him says. “Just relax.”

“Please help me,” the man says, in between screams. “Please.”

“Relax!” an officer says. “Stop resisting.”

The man’s shrieks and utterances become groans. His body goes limp, he falls silent, and vomits.

Moments later in the bodycam footage, an officer can be heard saying, “He’s dead.”

Muhammad Muhaymin Jr. died in the custody of Phoenix police on January 4, 2017.

The man at the bottom of the pile was Muhammad Muhaymin Jr. His death in police custody on January 4, 2017, has notable similarities with the case of George Floyd, who died on Memorial Day after Minneapolis police officers were atop him for nearly nine minutes — one with a knee on his neck.

The incident — which has drawn some local but little national coverage — is getting a second look against the backdrop of Floyd’s death, which galvanized a movement and has changed the tenor of the national conversation around race and policing.

“We have heard the mayor of Phoenix and the police chief of Phoenix police talk about what happened in Minneapolis, say that they are ashamed, condemn the people involved as if it were something separate from us,” said Viri Hernandez, executive director of Poder in Action, a Phoenix advocacy group. “They never acknowledge that what happened to George Floyd, their police officers did here, to Muhammad Muhaymin.”

Officers involved in the death are still on the force

The incident in Phoenix began with a trip to a public restroom. When the 43-year-old Muhaymin — who struggled with mental illness and intermittent homelessness — tried to carry his emotional support dog, a Chihuahua named Chiquita, into the restroom of a community service center, the manager physically blocked him from entering the men’s room and asked him to leave the dog outside. An argument ensued, and the manager instructed an employee to call 911.

This triggered a response by a handful of Phoenix police officers who in the bodycam footage initially appear to defuse the situation by allowing Muhaymin to use the men’s room.

But during their fateful six-minute wait for Muhaymin to exit, officers conducted a background search and discovered a warrant on his record for failure to appear in court over a charge stemming from misdemeanor possession of a marijuana pipe. (That confiscation was the result of a 2016 stop by a police officer for jaywalking in nearby Mesa, Arizona.)

When Muhaymin emerged from the restroom, the situation swiftly spiraled out of control. Officers tried to arrest him, and ultimately Muhaymin wound up facedown on the pavement just outside the facility with at least four officers on top of him struggling to put his hands in cuffs. Within eight minutes, Muhaymin was dead. His dog has not been seen since.