A former Minneapolis man now living in Auckland says he knew George Floyd – whose death following a violent arrest has sparked riots across the US – as a "kind-hearted" and "wonderful" person.
Randy Louis Pollard, who moved to New Zealand recently, has also shared his own tale of dealing with police as a black person in America.
The businessman told the Herald he was saddened at the chaos that has erupted in more than 30 cities in his home country, and the death of Floyd, who he says he knew for three of the 12 years he lived in Minneapolis.
Pollard said he met Floyd while working at a food bank, and recalled joking around with him.
"He was genuine, kind-hearted ... just a wonderful guy. He was very approachable and easy-going. I had a lot of respect for him."
On May 25, the 46-year-old father-of-two, who had recently lost his job as a security guard amid the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown, died after being pinned down by police officer Derek Chauvin, who kept his knee on Floyd's neck for eight minutes during an arrest.
Footage of the arrest, in which Floyd was heard to say, "I can't breathe", quickly spread across social media and re-ignited civil unrest over police treatment of black people.
Chauvin now faces a charge of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter, and has been fired along with three other officers involved in the arrest.
"To me, it has been very sad, because it could have been entirely prevented, if they'd just followed protocols," Pollard said.
He added it was all the more upsetting, as he said he'd been maced by Minneapolis police in 2015, after intervening in an attack on a white woman and being mistaken for the perpetrator.
"When the two officers realised they'd made a mistake they offered me a ride home, which I didn't want," he wrote in an emotional Facebook post.
"I walked a few blocks home and called the police department and told them what had happened.
"They said they could send a squad to take me to hospital to get the mace washed off. I didn't want to leave home.
"The police never acknowledged their wrongdoing. It's sad when you cannot feel safe as a black male and so many people are walking and living in fear. I survived my experience but it was never followed up."
He told the Herald today the situation in the US wasn't going to ease until the four police officers were held accountable.
"There is not going to be any peace. That's just the way [the protesters] see it," he said.
"It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see what's going to happen. It's going to get worse."
He also said protesters who were demanding justice over Floyd's death had been undermined by outsiders who had taken to looting and burning buildings.
"At the same time, president is saying, if people resist, shoot. That's ridiculous. How can you have peace if that is coming from the president?"
Amid the unrest, Pollard added he was happy to be living in New Zealand.
"I've had a lot of people who have reached out to me, just checking on me to make sure I was okay, who weren't aware I'd moved here."