Death of George Floyd mirrors Milwaukee case that took place nearly 40 years ago

NOW: Death of George Floyd mirrors Milwaukee case that took place nearly 40 years ago

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- What happened to George Floyd in Minnesota happened in Milwaukee nearly 40 years ago to Ernest Lacy in July, 1981.

Lacy was a young, black man whose death also sparked protests. 

Ernest Lacy was a 22-year-old when he died after being arrested by Milwaukee police officers. One had his knee on Lacy's back, near his neck, while Lacy was handcuffed. Shortly after, he became unresponsive.

"The more things change, the more they stay the same, and that's what we look at in Minnesota, and as we look at here in Milwaukee," said Stanley Woodard, lead local attorney for Ernest Lacy's family.

Woodard says Lacy was walking to a convenience store near 23rd and Wisconsin when he was questioned by police. 

"He was such a nice young man and a caring human being, he made you feel good," said Myrtle Lacy, Ernest's mom.

Police were looking for a rape suspect described as a young black man.

"When they stopped him, he got excited about it because Ernest Lacy had some mental health issues," said Woodard. "He had them for some time, but he was functional."

"He in turn got scared and started to run, but even before he was able to get away, they subdued him, restrained him, two were holding him down," added Carl Jaskolski, who assisted in the investigation.

A third officer put his knee on Lacy's back, constricting air flow -- a rather similar tactic used by the officer in George Floyd's video.

"A third officer was kneeling on his back by his neck, so when I saw that picture of what happened to George Floyd, I'm like oh my goodness," Jaskolski said.

"In this case, he did indicate difficulty, they ignored that, and as a result, he ended up passing out," Woodard said. "The officers did not pay attention."

Lacy was taken to the police station unresponsive, and was pronounced dead at the hospital.

"There were many protests, but I have to say, they were peaceful protests," Jaskolski said.

Lacy's mother says her heart sank seeing what happened to her son happen to George Floyd.

"No one who has never experienced something like this could even begin to understand the emptiness," she said.

Woodard says people were skeptical justice would be served for Lacy, but for the first time ever, the evidence was enough to convince the Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission to fire the officer on Lacy's back and suspend the other two.

"That was monumental, if you wanna say. A monumental verdict on behalf of justice for Ernest Lacy," Woodard said.

Woodard and Jaskolski say the arrest of the police officer in Floyd's death is the right move.

"All my years of being in the state of Wisconsin is probably the quickest period of time an officer has been charged from wrong-doing," Jaskolski said. 

"The arrest is the right step to take, and hopefully the criminal justice system will weigh the evidence and make the same conclusions that we have seen in the video," added Woodard.

"It has to change, it can't continue like this," said Myrtle Lacy.

Woodard says videos don't lie, and he hopes officers will take into consideration that in today's day and age, their actions are almost always recorded. 

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