Did George Floyd Really Try to Use a Counterfeit $20 Bill?

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[George Floyd Counterfeit Bill]
Gladstone: "Let me ask law enforcement officials this: have you remotely considered the possibility that Mr. Floyd wasn’t aware he was even passing along a bad $20 bill?"
Photo: Twitter

Did George Floyd really try to pass a counterfeit $20 bill?

It has been nearly one month since George Floyd’s murder, on May 25. As reprehensible as that senseless killing was, the tragedy has galvanized people into action. 

All across America, protests, vigils and demonstrations have resulted in calls for police reform and an uprising over systemic racism in this country the likes of which I cannot ever recall.

And to think this all started over a counterfeit $20 bill.

For those who may have forgotten, or are not aware, of why police arrested Mr. Floyd in the first place, history will show that, just before 8 ‘o’clock that night, he attempted to purchase a pack of cigarettes with a $20 bill that a 17-year-old clerk at the Cup Foods grocery store, on Chicago Avenue in Minneapolis, suspected was a fake. The clerk reportedly called the police at 8:01 p.m.

A woman named Angel Stately, a former employee of Cup Foods who was in the store at the same time the police arrived, told the New York Times the bill was an obvious fake. “The ink was still running,” she explained. 

Police, who were told by the store clerk that Mr. Floyd was allegedly drunk, reportedly tried to put him in their vehicle. Drunk or not, he resisted. I have also read in various accounts that one of the two people seated in Mr. Floyd’s car, Maurice Hall, was wanted by police on outstanding arrest warrants in Houston. Could that explain the actions of the cops?

At 8:19 p.m., former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin pulled Mr., Floyd out of the police car and, well, you know the rest.

But let me ask law enforcement officials this: have you remotely considered the possibility that Mr. Floyd wasn’t aware he was even passing along a bad $20 bill?

One of my Twitter followers, a Belleville civil liberties attorney named Eric Rhein, has over 35 years of experience practicing law in Southern Illinois. Mr. Rhein, who previously worked for the St. Clair County State’s Attorney’s Office where, as a prosecutor, he won every jury verdict he was involved with between 1989 and 2013, says that Chauvin and the other officers needed probable cause to believe that Floyd knew that the $20 bill he allegedly tried to pass was no good.

“That could have been accomplished by obtaining his confession or if the bill was an obvious phony,” Rhein recently told me in an email. “Reasonable officers I’ve dealt with for decades would have likely issued Mr. Floyd a misdemeanor ticket or notice to appear for attempted theft. 

“That would have meant no need to have taken him into custody,” continued Rhein. “No custody, no murder.” 

The national media, Rhein contends, has yet to pick up on this significant issue. 

Meanwhile, has anyone other than Ms. Staley, the Cup Foods clerk, the late Mr. Floyd or the cops actually seen the bill in question that ignited this incendiary situation? USA Today’s Nora Hertel recently wrote that, since the bill is a huge part of the ongoing investigation into Floyd’s murder – and presumably Chauvin’s trial – it is police evidence and, therefore, the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension won’t discuss details of open and active investigations. 

I think we all have a right to know whether this supposed $20 bill was indeed a fake or not. Especially the Floyd family. Of course, I also think that the image of Harriet Tubman – the leader of the “Underground Railroad” whose picture, thanks to a proposal spearheaded by former President Barack Obama, was supposed to replace Andrew Jackson’s on a redesigned $20 bill – should be approved by United States Treasury Secretary Steve Mnunchin. 

Mnunchin last May eighty-sixed that idea. He reportedly said that it wouldn’t happen as long as President Donald Trump remained in office. > Let us hope we see the $20 bill that got Mr. Floyd killed way before that. 

DOUGLAS J. GLADSTONE is the author of two books and multiple newspaper, magazine and webzine articles. His website is at www.gladstonewriter.com.

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