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Gentle giant: Friends and family remember George Floyd

Houston native George Floyd came to Minnesota “to be his best self,” his long time friend Stephen Jackson, who played 14 seasons in the NBA and called Floyd his twin, said on Instagram.

Floyd’s brother, Philonise Floyd, told CNN that “knowing my brother is to love my brother.”

“He’s a gentle giant, he don’t hurt anybody.”

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George Floyd, 46, died with Minneapolis police officer Derek Chavin’s knee on his neck, crying that he couldn’t breathe and calling out for his mother. His excruciating death was captured on video, prompting the firing of Chavin and three other officers involved in the incident and launching days of protests.

His friends and family remember a kind man who came to Minneapolis to start over.

“Quiet personality but a beautiful spirit,” Donnell Cooper, a former classmate at Jack Yates High School — where he was a star tight end on the football team — told Fox News. His death “definitely caught me by surprise. It’s just so sad, the world we’re living in now.”

Cooper acknowledged Floyd’s nickname — gentle giant — came about because he towered over everyone else, at 6 foot inches tall.

He moved to Minnesota five years ago and worked driving trucks and as a security guard. At his job at Conga Latin Bistro, owner Jovanni Tunstrom said Floyd was “always cheerful.

“He had a good attitude,” Tunstrum said. “He would dance badly to make people laugh. I tried to teach him how to dance because he loved Latin music, but I couldn’t because he was too tall for me.”

He lost his job when the coronavirus came along, though, and restaurants closed under stay-at-home orders.

Childhood friend Christopher Harris, who said he had talked Floyd into following him from Houston to Minneapolis, said his friend’s death “was senseless.”

“He begged for his life. He pleaded for his life,” he said. “When you try so hard to put faith in this system, a system that you know isn’t designed for you, when you constantly seek justice by lawful means and you can’t get it, you begin to take the law into your own hands.”

Philonise Floyd said his brother’s death was “an execution.” “These guys need to be arrested, convicted of murder, and given the death penalty,” he said on CNN. “They need to. They took my brother’s life.”

In Texas, Floyd’s daughter, Tanjanica George, and her mother Rose Hudson spoke to KTRK.

“My daughter had to see her daddy get killed on live TV,” said Hudson, who dated Floyd 20 years ago.

“I will just let her know what a great guy he was,” said Hudson, holding Journi, the granddaughter Floyd will never meet. “He was a good father to his girls. I just have memories, that’s all I can give her, memories of her grandfather.”

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[Featured image: George Floyd/screengrab from a video he made about gun violence]