Derek Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer who was filmed kneeling on George Floyd’s neck before he died, is in custody and has been charged with murder, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said Friday.
Chauvin was among the four officers involved in Floyd’s violent arrest on Monday that has since spurred days of protests in Minnesota’s largest city. Chauvin is white and Floyd was black.
“We have now been able to put together the evidence that we need,” Freeman said at a news conference. “Even as late as yesterday afternoon, we didn’t have all that we needed. We have now found it.”
“This is by far the fastest we’ve ever charged a police officer,” he added.
Floyd, who was 46, died after being arrested on suspicion that he attempted to use a counterfeit bill.
Booking photo of former Minneapolis Officer Derek Chauvin
Photo provided by Ramsey County Jail
Tape of the arrest, which was caught by onlookers, shows Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck as Floyd, who is handcuffed, cries out that he cannot breathe.
Chauvin, 44, was charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Under the Minnesota penal code, third-degree murder involves “perpetrating an act eminently dangerous to others and evincing a depraved mind” but without the intent to cause death.
A conviction for third-degree murder has a maximum possible sentence of 25 years in prison, and second-degree manslaughter carries a max of 10 years.
The complaint, released Friday, accuses Chauvin of having his knee on Floyd’s neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds, including for nearly three minutes after Floyd was nonresponsive.
“Police are trained that this type of restraint with a subject in a prone position is inherently dangerous,” the complaint reads.
According to the complaint, preliminary findings from the Hennepin County Medical Examiner do not support a diagnosis of strangulation, but suggest that Floyd’s underlying heart conditions, combined with the police restraint and “potential intoxicants in his system” likely contributed to his death.
In a statement, Floyd’s family called the arrest a “welcome but overdue step on the road to justice.”
“We expected a first-degree murder charge. We want a first-degree murder charge. And we want to see the other officers arrested,” they said in a statement issued by their attorney Ben Crump.
The other officers involved in the arrest were Thomas Lane, Tou Thao and J. Alexander Kueng. All four were fired on Tuesday. Freeman said Friday that he anticipated charges for the other officers but did not go into detail.
Efforts to reach the officers or their attorneys have been unsuccessful.
The incident recalled the 2014 death of Eric Garner, a black man who died gasping “I can’t breathe” while a white New York police officer, Daniel Pantaleo, grasped his neck and wrestled him to the ground.
The New York City Medical Examiner ruled that the death was a homicide, but Pantaleo was not charged with any crime. Because of the incident, “I can’t breathe” became a rallying cry at protests about police violence around the country.
Floyd’s death prompted calls from local and national figures for Chauvin’s prosecution, and a federal investigation led by the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
“The Department of Justice has made the investigation a top priority and has assigned experienced prosecutors and FBI criminal investigators to the matter,” the agencies said in a joint statement Thursday.
A protester hold sign board “Justice for George” into a fire outside a Target store near the Third Police Precinct on May 28, 2020 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, during a demonstration over the death of George Floyd.
Kerem Yucel | AFP | Getty Images
President Donald Trump, who has in the past told officers not to worry about injuring those they arrest, has shown sympathy for Floyd’s case.
“Justice will be served,” Trump wrote in a post Wednesday on Twitter. On Friday, he added that Floyd’s family “is entitled to justice, and the people of Minnesota are entitled to live in safety. Law and order will prevail.”
But the president has also gone after those involved in the Minneapolis riots that have shaken the city in recent days. Among the buildings that have been destroyed was the Minneapolis police 3rd Precinct location, which was set on fire overnight Thursday.
“The looters should not be allowed to drown out the voices of so many peaceful protesters,” Trump said.
In a post on Twitter posted in the early hours of Friday morning, Trump wrote that “These THUGS are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd, and I won’t let that happen.”
“Just spoke to Governor Tim Walz and told him that the Military is with him all the way. Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts. Thank you!” Trump wrote.
Twitter labeled the president’s tweet as “glorifying violence,” the first time the social media company has done so.
Joe Biden, the apparent Democratic presidential nominee, has also weighed in. During a livestream on Friday afternoon, Biden thanked Floyd’s family for speaking with him, and pledged: “I promise you, we’ll do everything in our power to see that justice is had.”
In a series of posts on Twitter, Biden chastised Trump for “calling for violence against American citizens during a moment of pain for so many.”