A high school wrestling coach who aimed to defend police in the wake of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis is now defending himself from charges of racism.
Dave Hollenbeck, a wrestling instructor at Bethel High School in Washington state, posted images of himself in which he is on the ground with someone’s knee pressed on his neck, reports KING5. (That is how Floyd died while in police custody.) “Not dead yet,” Hollenbeck wrote in one.
“I’m doing this for (our) police officers,” he wrote, adding that “the media is a race-baiting machine.”
“Not dead yet”: @BethelSD says it’s investigating this social media post of a first-year wrestling coach at Bethel High School who’s pictured with a knee pressed into his neck. #GeorgeFloyd pic.twitter.com/sOcVCoSjoJ
— Michael Spears (@MichaelKIRO7) May 27, 2020
A second image had a similar message, saying police critics don’t know what “they’re talking about when they’re saying that this could kill you.”
Both posts appear to have been deleted, but you can see screenshots here from a KIRO7 reporter.
Hollenbeck’s school district has been flooded with complaints from people accusing Hollenbeck of mocking Floyd or belittling his death.
But Hollenbeck denies that to KOMO. “I’m not a racist man,” he says. “I’m sorry that I offended anybody; that was not my point.”
Hollenbeck says he was defending the officers’ tactics. “I have a specialty in fighting on the ground, and I know that just putting your knee on the back—to me, I would say that not going to lead to death,” he says.
“Now did he have other underlying issues? Maybe.” (Floyd repeatedly told officers he couldn’t breathe.)
The school district is investigating the controversy, and didn’t sound too supportive of the coach. “Dave Hollenbeck is not a teacher,” it says. “This was his first year as a wrestling coach at Bethel High School. As wrestling season is over, he is not working for us right now.”