[Updated May 29th] Memorial Day is a day when we honor and mourn our soldiers who died while defending our country, In Minneapolis, it is a day to mourn and honor George Floyd. On Monday Floyd died while being detained by several Minneapolis police officers. Most would say tortured.
Police claim they were responding to a report of a man who reportedly was involved in a forgery complaint. Media reports say Floyd attempted to purchase cigarettes with a counterfeit $20 bill. It is unknown if the bill was really counterfeit or if Floyd was even guilty of a crime.
When police arrived they found Floyd in a nearby car. They say he matched the description of their suspect.
A Minneapolis Police Department spokesperson says that officers ordered him out of the car. “After he got out, he physically resisted officers. Officers were able to get the suspect into handcuffs and noted he appeared to be suffering medical distress.”
Bystanders have a different version, they say an officer was kneeling on Floyd’s neck for several minutes. Luckily, several recorded the arrest and Floyd’s death on their cellphones.
We have watched the video multiple times and don’t see any evidence of resisting. Even if Floyd had resisted before the video begins, he certainly wasn’t resisting in the video.
George Floyd Pleads for His Life – “Man I Can’t Breathe”
A recording of the incident shows a police officer kneeling on Floyd’s neck while Floyd pleads for his life. “Please, please, please, I can’t breathe. Please, man.” If you look carefully at the video you will see the officer’s left knee on Floyd’s neck and the officer’s right foot moving. That is significant, if the officer’s right foot is moving it means his full body weight (plus 30 pounds of gear weight) is on Floyd’s neck.
People in the crowd were horrified and yelled at the officers. They were ignored. After several minutes Floyd becomes motionless. The officer keeps his knee on his neck for several more minutes. Although it is too soon for an autopsy there are strong indications that Floyd was choked to death.
Minneapolis Police allow officers to kneel on someone’s neck if that level of force is necessary and if the officer has been trained in the technique and does not block the suspect’s airway. That Floyd was saying he couldn’t breathe is pretty good evidence that his airway was compromised.
We can’t even imagine why Minneapolis would have any such policy. That level of force should only be used in a life and death situation. Clearly this wasn’t. In fact, the officer appears to smirk at one point while bystanders are pleading for Floyd’s life.
Even if the officers were justified in the use of force, we know of no justification once their suspect became motionless. When I attended the police academy many years ago, it was drilled into our head that our number one duty was preservation of life. It wasn’t arresting bad guys.
The officer who kneeled on Floyd’s neck for several agonizingly long minutes failed in that lesson. So did the other three officers who stood around and did nothing. Now there are reports that two of the officers – including the officer who killed George Floyd has prior excessive force complaints.
Shortly after the incident, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey announced all four officers involved were fired. Frey released a statement saying, “Being Black in America should not be a death sentence. For five minutes, we watched a white officer press his knee into a Black man’s neck. Five minutes. When you hear someone calling for help, you’re supposed to help. This officer failed in the most basic, human sense.”
At the risk of upsetting some members of the community, we don’t know if this is a hate crime as Frey suggests. Murder is murder and we have no tolerance for officers who use excessive force no matter what color skin the officer or alleged offender has. Hopefully the FBI and Justice Department do a thorough investigation and determine the motive of the officers. If it is a hate crime they certainly should be punished for that as well as killing Mr. Floyd.
There is no room in law enforcement for racial bias or excessive force.
In almost all of these cases there is information not yet revealed to the public. We hope investigators release the body cam footage as soon as possible and are 100% transparent in their investigation. Both the community and George Floyd deserve no less.
We do applaud Mayor Frey’s swift actions. He was previously instrumental in getting 90% of the police to have body cams. The footage from those cams will be crucial in the search for justice.
A police spokesperson says the department believes the incident is “medical related.” Whether or not Floyd dies because of some unknown medical condition, the videos don’t show the officers rendering aid. And that is enough to hold them – and the city – accountable.
What Happens Now?
As this post is being written, thousands of protesters have gathered at the intersection of 38th and Chicago where Floyd died. We hope the protests remain peaceful. Nearby at the Third District police station there are visible signs of smashed windows and damaged vehicles. Residents of the city are clearly angry. [Since this post was written, the protests have become violent and have spread to other cities. George Floyd wouldn’t want to see such violence nor do we.]
One protester is carrying a sign that says, “When will the killing stop?” Minneapolis has had its fair share of police shootings in recent years.
In many police shootings, community leaders wait for the evidence before commenting. Not with this incident. The Mayor of Minneapolis’s “twin city”, St Paul tweeted, “The video of a Minneapolis police officer killing a defenseless, handcuffed man is one of the most vile and heartbreaking images I’ve ever seen. The officer who stood guard is just as responsible as his partner; both must be held fully accountable. This must stop now.”
The Reverend Cornell William Brooks, a local voice of calm, said, Eric Garner’s last words: “I can’t breathe.” Six years later, another Black man is killed moaning “I can’t breathe.” I believe in nonviolence but I doubt Black (or any) people’s ability to put up with police violence indefinitely & nonviolently.”
Steve Kerr, coach of the Golden State Warriors said, “This is murder. Disgusting. Seriously, what the hell is wrong with us.”
The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) is taking lead on the investigation. They will view the bodycam footage, interview the officers and any witnesses. The medical examiner will attempt to determine how Floyd died.
Ultimately, the BCA will turn over their findings to the Hennepin County District Attorney who will determine whether criminal charges should be brought against the officers. Typically the DA presents the evidence to a Grand Jury who determines whether to indict and if so, on what charges.
The Minneapolis Police Department has requested the FBI to conduct a parallel investigation. While the BCA will focus on whether the officers acted appropriately and if not, whether they should be charged, the FBI will have a different focus. The FBI’s investigation is to determine whether the police violated Floyd’s civil rights.
Whether or not the feds or District Attorney charges the officers criminally, Floyd’s next of kin can bring a civil action seeking monetary damages against the city and officers. Even if the officers are found not guilty of criminal charges – or are never charged – a civil jury can still hold the city and officers responsible and order them to pay damages.
UPDATE: We are thrilled to report that the Hennepin County Attorney has charged former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin with murder! According to the criminal complaint, “Derek Michael Chauvin caused the death of George Floyd by his culpable negligence, creating an unreasonable risk and taking a chance of causing death or great bodily harm to George Floyd.” (A full copy of the criminal complaint appears at the end of this post.)
County Attorney Mike Freeman says that a review of the bodycams show that Chauvin kneeled on Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes, 45 seconds. Floyd was unconscious for 2 minutes 53 seconds. One of the other officers can be heard suggesting that Chauvin roll Floyd on to his side. Chauvin allegedly said, "No, staying put where we got him.”
Prosecutors say that another officer, Alexander Kueng, "checked Mr. Floyd’s right wrist for a pulse and said, 'I couldn’t find one.' None of the officers moved from their positions."
The county attorney says that other charges are likely and may include the other officers. We hope so. The various videos that we have viewed shows none of the officers rendering aid. Instead they waited until EMS arrived. By that time it was too late.
If convicted, Derek Chauvin faces 20 years in prison.
Justice needs to happen but it should happen in the courts and through meaningful reform and protests, not Molotov cocktails and looting.
Police brutality has been around for a long time. This time it happened in front of witnesses and was recorded on cell phones.
Victims of Police Brutality Deserve Justice - Act Now to Secure Compensation and Demand Police Reform
Police brutality and wrongful death claims can only be made within certain time limits. The usual time frame is between one and two years, even less in some states. If you or a loved one were injured or killed by the police and want compensation and justice, act fast.
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If you have been the victim of police brutality, visit our police brutality and death in custody information pages. Ready to see if you have a case? Contact us by phone 866.836.4684 or Connect Online. All inquiries kept in strict confidence.
Video from Now This. (Please note this video footage is extremely disturbing) Please note that a copy of the criminal complaint appears at the bottom of this post.
CRIMINAL COMPLAINT AGAINST DEREK CHAUVIN
State of Minnesota County of Hennepin
State of Minnesota,
DEREK MICHAEL CHAUVIN
Filed in District Court State of Minnesota 5/29/2020
District Court 4th Judicial District
The Complainant submits this complaint to the Court and states that there is probable cause to believe Defendant committed the following offense(s):
Charge: Murder - 3rd Degree - Perpetrating Eminently Dangerous Act and Evincing Depraved Mind
Minnesota Statute: 609.195(a)
Offense Level: Felony
Offense Date (on or about): 05/25/2020
Charge Description: That on or about May 25, 2020, in Hennepin County, Minnesota, Derek Michael Chauvin caused the death of George Floyd by perpetrating an act eminently dangerous to others and evincing a depraved mind, without regard for human life.
Charge: Manslaughter - 2nd Degree - Culpable Negligence Creating Unreasonable Risk
Minnesota Statute: 609.205(1)
Offense Level: Felony
Offense Date (on or about): 05/25/2020
Control #(ICR#): 20200338Charge Description: That on or about May 25, 2020, in Hennepin County, Minnesota, Derek Michael Chauvin caused the death of George Floyd by his culpable negligence, creating an unreasonable risk and taking a chance of causing death or great bodily harm to George Floyd.
STATEMENT OF PROBABLE CAUSE 5/29/2020
On May 25, 2020, someone called 911 and reported that a man bought merchandise from Cup Foods at 3759 Chicago Avenue in Minneapolis, Hennepin County, Minnesota with a counterfeit $20 bill.
At 8:08 p.m., Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) Officers Thomas Lane and J.A. Kueng arrived with their body worn cameras (BWCs) activated and running. The officers learned from store personnel that the man who passed the counterfeit $20 was parked in a car around the corner from the store on 38th Street.
BWC video obtained by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension shows that the officers approached the car, Lane on the driver's side and Kueng on the passenger side. Three people were in the car; George Floyd was in the driver's seat, a known adult male was in the passenger seat and a known adult female was sitting in the backseat.
As Officer Lane began speaking with Mr. Floyd, he pulled his gun out and pointed it at Mr. Floyd's open window and directed Mr. Floyd to show his hands. When Mr. Floyd put his hands in the steering wheel, Lane put his gun back in its holster.
While Officer Kueng was speaking with the front seat passenger, Officer Lane ordered Mr. Floyd out of the car, put his hands on Mr. Floyd, and pulled him out of the car. Officer Lane handcuffed Mr. Floyd. Mr. Floyd actively resisted being handcuffed.
Once handcuffed, Mr. Floyd became compliant and walked with Officer Lane to the sidewalk and sat on the ground at Officer Lane's direction. In a conversation that lasted just under two minutes, Officer Lang asked Mr. Floyd for his name and identification. Officer Lane asked Mr. Lloyd if he was "on anything" and explained that he was arresting Mr. Lloyd for passing counterfeit currency.
Officers Kueng and Lane stood Mr. Floyd up and attempted to walk Mr. Floyd to their squad car (MPD 320) at 8:14 p.m. Mr. Floyd stiffened up, fell to the ground, and told the officers he was claustrophobic.
MPD Officers Derek Chauvin (the defendant) and Tou Thoa then arrived in a separate squad car.
The officers made several attempts to get Mr. Floyd in the backseat of squad 320 from the driver's side. Mr. Floyd did not voluntarily get in the car and struggled with the officers by intentionally falling down, saying he was not going in the car, and refusing to stand still. Mr. Floyd is over six feet tall and weighs more than 200 pounds.
While standing outside the car, Mr. Floyd began saying and repeating that he could not breathe. The defendant went to the passenger side and tried to get Mr. Floyd into the car from that side and Lane and Kueng assisted.
The defendant pulled Mr. Floyd out of the passenger side of the squad car at 8:19:38 p.m. and Mr. Floyd went to the ground face down and still handcuffed. Kueng held Mr. Floyd's back and Lane held his legs. The defendant placed his left knee in the area of Mr. Floyd's head and neck. Mr. Floyd said, "I can't breathe" multiple times and repeatedly said, "Mama" and "please," as well. The defendant and the other two officers stayed in their positions.
The officers said, "You are talking fine" to Mr. Floyd as he continued to move back and forth. Lane asked, "should we roll him on his side?" and the defendant said, "No, staying put where we got him." Officer Lane said, "I am worried about excited delirium or whatever." The defendant said, "That's why we have him on his stomach." None of the three officers moved from their positions.
BWC video shows Mr. Floyd continue to move and breathe. At 8:24:24, Mr. Floyd stopped moving. At 8:25:31 the video appears to show Mr. Floyd ceasing to breathe or speak. Lane said, "want to roll him on his side." Kueng checked Mr. Floyd's right wrist for a pulse and said, "I couldn't find one." None of the officers moved from their positions.
At 8:27:24, the defendant removed his knee from Mr. Floyd's neck. An ambulance and emergency medical personnel arrived, the officers placed Mr. Floyd on a gurney, and the ambulance left the scene. Mr. Floyd was pronounced dead at Hennepin County Medical Center.
The Hennepin County Medical Examiner (ME) conducted Mr. Floyd's autopsy on May 26, 2020. The full report of the ME is pending but the ME has made the following preliminary findings. The autopsy revealed no physical findings that support a diagnosis of traumatic asphyxia or strangulation. Mr. Floyd had underlying health conditions including coronary artery disease and hypertensive heart disease. The combined effects of Mr. Floyd being restrained by the police, his underlying health conditions and any potential intoxicants in his system likely contributed to his death.
The defendant had his knee on Mr. Floyd's neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds in total. Two minutes and 53 seconds of this was after Mr. Floyd was non-responsive. Police are trained that this type of restraint with a subject in a prone position is inherently dangerous.
Defendant is in custody.
George Floyd, his friends and family, the City of Minneapolis and all victims of police brutality are in our prayers.
Please contact us if you or a family member were seriously injured or died as a result of police brutality. We can be reached by phone 866.836.4684 or Connect Online. All inquiries kept in strict confidence.