New charges in George Floyd's death: Derek Chauvin faces second-degree murder; 3 other officers charged
All four police officers in the killing of George Floyd will face charges, Minnesota's attorney general announced Wednesday, and court papers described more troubling details about how officers did nothing to stop Floyd from dying on the ground.
Attorney General Keith Ellison said at a news conference that evidence "supports a stronger charge" for Derek Chauvin. He had been charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter May 29 and taken into custody the same day.
Thomas Lane, J.A. Keung and Tou Thao were the other officers on the scene. Thao was charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder in the commission of a felony; the other officers face similar charges of aiding and abetting.
The bail for all four officers was set at $1 million.
"Trying this case will not be an easy thing," Ellison said. "Winning a conviction will be hard."
Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension superintendent Drew Evans said one of the three other officers is in custody and the other two were expected to be taken into custody by the end of the day.
Thao, according to a criminal complaint filed Wednesday, stood by as Floyd repeatedly said he could not breathe. Court papers describe Thao as being more concerned about controlling the nearby crowd than Floyd's welfare.
Thao "became concerned about a number of citizens who had gathered and were watching the officers subdue Mr. Floyd, and potential traffic concerns, and so the defendant stood between those citizens and the three officers restraining Mr. Floyd," the charging papers said.
The officer had moments earlier "looked directly at how Chauvin was restraining Mr. Floyd, with Chauvin's knee on Mr. Floyd's neck area," according to the court records. "When one citizen stepped off the curb, imploring Chauvin to get off Mr. Floyd, (Thao) put his hands on the citizen to keep him back."
Despite Floyd's pleas that he could not breathe and was about to die, Chauvin had his knee on Floyd's neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds. Two minutes and 53 seconds of that time was after Floyd was unresponsive, the court records said.
"Police officers are trained that this type of restraint with a subject in a prone position is inherently dangerous," the charging papers concluded. "Officer Chauvin's restraint of Mr. Floyd in this manner for a prolonged period was a substantial causal factor" in Floyd's death.
An official autopsy found that Floyd had arteriosclerotic and hypertensive heart disease, and toxicology testing revealed the presence of fentanyl and evidence of recent methamphetamine use, court records show.
A postmortem nasal swab showed that Floyd was positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, according to the autopsy report, which was released Wednesday night. The report says that Floyd was likely asymptomatic of the disease.
A medical examiner "opined that the effects of the officers' restraint of Mr. Floyd, his underlying health conditions and the presence of the drugs contributed to his death. … The ME concluded the manner of death was homicide."
The incident led to mass protests over questions of police brutality and racial inequality and has shaken the nation. Once news of the additional charges broke, Floyd family attorney Benjamin Crump called the moment "bittersweet" and said the family was "deeply gratified" for Ellison's action.
"This is a significant step forward on the road to justice, and we are gratified that this important action was brought before George Floyd’s body was laid to rest," Crump said in a statement. "That is a source of peace for George’s family in this painful time. Attorney General Ellison has informed the family that his office will continue to investigate and will upgrade the charges to first-degree murder if the evidence supports it."
Crump thanked people nationwide but pleaded for calm on city streets.
"We are deeply grateful for the outpouring of support by Americans in cities across the country, and we urge them to raise their voices for change in peaceful ways. Our message to them is: Find constructive and positive ways to keep the focus and pressure on. Don’t let up on your demand for change," he said.
Floyd was a 46-year-old black man who was killed Memorial Day after Chauvin, who is white, knelt on his neck for more than eight minutes. Bystanders recorded video of the incident and shared it on social media channels. Once it went viral, it caused an outpouring of outrage.
While Chauvin pinned Floyd, the three other officers at the scene were recorded standing by and failed to intervene.
All four officers were fired the day after the incident.
“To the Floyd family, to our beloved community and to everyone that is watching, I say: George Floyd mattered,” Ellison said. “He was loved. His family was important. His life had value. And we will seek justice for him and for you and we will find it. The very fact we filed these charges is that we believe in them. But what I do not believe is that one successful prosecution can rectify the hurt and loss that so many people feel.”