The three other Minneapolis cops involved in the police killing of George Floyd—an unarmed black man who was filmed repeatedly saying he couldn’t breathe while an officer held his knee on his neck for several minutes—are being charged in his death.
The Star Tribune reports that the three officers —Thomas Lane, Tou Thao, and J. Alexander Kueng—will be charged by Attorney General Keith Ellison with aiding and abetting murder. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) also announced on Twitter that Ellison is upgrading charges against Derek Chauvin, who held his knee on Floyd neck for almost nine minutes, to second-degree murder. Chauvin was charged last week with third-degree murder and manslaughter.
“This is another important step for justice,” Klobuchar tweeted Wednesday, after announcing the new charges. Ellison is scheduled to hold a press conference on the investigation into Floyd’s death on Wednesday afternoon.
According to Minnesota state law, second-degree murder is not premeditated but the suspect did intend to cause death. The charge typically carries a maximum penalty of 40 years behind bars.
All four cops were fired one day after explosive footage of the May 25 incident spurred a national outcry and protests that have at times turned violent across the country.
Crump, who spoke outside the Cup Foods in Minneapolis where Floyd was initially arrested on the suspicion of using a fake $25 bill, said that while the announcement of the new charges is “a bittersweet moment,” the Floyd family is “deeply gratified” that the attorney general took action.
The block surrounding Cup Foods has turned into an open air community center, with a white school bus offering water and a “medic” access blocking off the road. Past the bus are tables for free supplies to protesters and residents, including canned foods, condiments, diapers, and baby supplies.
The decision to file charges against the three officers comes after days of both peaceful and chaotic protests across the country, where residents in all 50 cities took to the streets, sometimes clashing with authorities in the fight against police brutality. The National Guard has been deployed in almost half the states in the nation, plus Washington, D.C., after officials found local cops were insufficient to contain the outrage alone.
“Let me say upfront, the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis policeman is a horrible crime. The officers on the scene that day should be held accountable for his murder. It is a tragedy that we have seen repeat itself too many times,” Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Wednesday speaking during a media briefing at the Pentagon.
A criminal complaint filed last week for Chauvin outlines the events leading up to the now-infamous video of the 44-year-old officer pinning his knee on Floyd’s neck until he lost consciousness. Prosecutors allege two officers, Lane and Kueng, initially responded to a call at 8:08 p.m. on May 25 that Floyd had used a counterfeit $20 bill at a convenience store.
When the two officers found Floyd in his car, along with two passengers, they asked him to get out. The complaint says Lane then pointed a gun at Floyd and ordered him to show his hands. He then pulled Floyd out of the car and Floyd resisted being handcuffed.
As the pair walked Floyd to their squad car, the complaint says the 46-year-old stiffened up, and fell to the ground while saying was claustrophobic. The complaint says that Officers Chauvin and Thao then arrived to help and all four men tried several times to get Floyd in the car but he kept “intentionally falling down” and saying he couldn’t breathe.
When Floyd fell down again, Kueng held his back and Lane held his legs—while Chauvin placed his knee on the unarmed man’s neck. The move prompted Floyd to call out for his mother and say several times that he couldn’t breathe.
In the gut-wrenching video recorded by a bystander, Floyd was heard begging for Chauvin to loosen his knee.
“My stomach hurts. My neck hurts. Please, please I can’t breathe,” he said. By the time he was loaded into an ambulance, he had no pulse, a Minneapolis Fire Department report stated.
The complaint says that at one point, one officer told Floyd, “You are talking fine.” Later, Lane asked his fellow officers if they should roll Floyd on his side and said, “I’m worried about excited delirium or whatever.” Chauvin responded: “That’s why we have him on his stomach.”
After Floyd stopped moving, Lane again suggested moving him onto his side while Kueng checked for a pulse but couldn’t find one. The officers never changed Floyd’s position.
The complaint states that, according to body-worn camera footage, Chauvin had his knee on Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds—including nearly three minutes in which Floyd was unresponsive.
“Police are trained that this type of restraint with a subject in a prone position is inherently dangerous,” the complaint states.
An updated report from the Hennepin County Medical Examiner indicated that Floyd died due to cardiac arrest from the restraint and neck compression. The medical examiner’s office report also states there were indications Floyd had heart disease, including “arteriosclerotic and hypertensive heart disease,” and there was fentanyl in his system.
An independent report commissioned by Floyd’s family, however, states that the 46-year-old was in good health and died of strangulation from pressure to his back and neck. Both reports concluded that Floyd’s death was a homicide.
“When [Floyd] said, ‘I can’t breathe’… police think that if you can talk then you can breath. That is not true,” celebrity pathologist Dr. Michael Baden said in a Monday press conference announcing the report, adding that Floyd has no underlying medical condition that would have contributed to his death. “He was in good health. The cause of death is asphyxia compression of the neck and back.”
U.S. Attorney General William Barr announced Friday the Department of Justice—including the FBI—were conducting their own investigation of Floyd’s death. On Sunday, Gov. Tom Walz announced Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison is taking the lead in Chauvin’s prosecution.
“When he couldn’t breathe, none of us could breath, so this is a tipping point.. to change America and see if America truly believes in the words of Thomas Jefferson that we would believe these truths to be self evident that all men are created equally,” Crump said Wednesday.
– Additional reporting by Justin Glawe
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