MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — People who knew him best called him “Floyd.” They also say George Floyd was a transplant from Houston who came to Minneapolis for a fresh start.

The world witnessed his last moments alive but those who knew George Floyd best say they can’t believe how the man they called a gentle giant died.

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“I was looking at the video and I said that can’t be Floyd, but later it just blew out. It was Floyd. And that’s when it hit me, it hit me hard,” Jovanni Thunstrom said.

Thunstrom said Floyd worked security for him at Conga Latina Bistro.

“He wasn’t only my employee, he was my best friend,” Thunstrom said.

Jovanni says his customers are reacting to the video they say is not characteristic of the man they know.

“He was the type of guy he was friendly to everybody. He didn’t discriminate, whether you were hispanic, you were black, you were white, he treated everybody with respect and that’s what I love about him,” Thunstrom said.

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Courteney Ross was Floyd’s other half.

“He stood up for people, he was there for people when they were down, he loved people that were thrown away,” Ross said. “We prayed over every meal, we prayed if we were having a hard time, we prayed if we were having a good time.”

Ross says Floyd was the most spiritual man she has ever met. She said he moved to Minnesota from Houston, Texas.

“He came to Minnesota to get a fresh start, and Minneapolis to him we like this place where people were just kind and open to him,” Ross said.

Ross knows the community is hurting like she is, and hopes they respond in a way that honors Floyd.

“You can’t fight fire with fire. Everything just burns, and I’ve seen it all day — people hate, they’re hating, they’re hating, they’re mad. And he would not want that. He wouldn’t, he wouldn’t, he wouldn’t. He would give grace — I stand on that today — he would still give grace to those people,” Ross said.

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Ross says Floyd’s mother passed away about a year ago. The video of him calling for her hits home; she believes his mother’s spirit was there with him, when he took his last breath.

Reg Chapman