3 cops charged, Derek Chauvin murder charge upgraded

Additional screen grab of user video obtained by NBC News circulating online appears to show three officers kneeling on the ground near Floyd, while another stands nearby.

NBC

Three former Minneapolis police officers were charged Wednesday with aiding and abetting murder in connection with the death of George Floyd in their custody, according to court records. 

In addition, Derek Chauvin, a fourth former officer who had already been charged with third-degree murder in the case, will now be charged with second-degree murder in addition to the previous charge against him, according to the records, which were filed Hennepin County Court by Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison. 

The three ex-cops who had not yet been facing charges, Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane, assisted Chauvin in arresting Floyd on Memorial Day on the suspicion that Floyd passed a counterfeit bill. All four officers were fired last week. 

Chauvin, who is white, was charged on Friday with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter after video footage emerged showing him kneeling on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes as Floyd, a black man, lay handcuffed, crying out that he could not breathe. 

The video shows that Chauvin continued to keep his knee of Floyd’s neck even after Floyd became nonresponsive. 

Floyd’s death has sparked widespread protests against police violence in dozens of cities across the country, with demonstrators and Floyd’s family calling for charges to be brought against Thao, Kueng and Lane.

The family also has demanded that Chauvin, 44, face a first-degree murder charge.  

Ben Crump, an attorney for the family, said in a statement that the family’s reaction was that it was a “a bittersweet moment.” 

“We are deeply gratified that @AGEllison took decisive action, arresting & charging ALL the officers involved in #GeorgeFloyd’s death & upgrading the charge against Derek Chauvin to felony second-degree murder,” Crump wrote in a post on Twitter. 

Quincy Mason Floyd, George Floyd’s son, said in an interview on CNN after news of the charges broke: “We demand justice. My father shouldn’t have been killed like this. We want justice.”

A second-degree murder charge carries a statutory maximum sentence of 40 years upon conviction, compared to 25 years for third-degree murder.

Thao, 34, Kueng, 26, and Lane, 37, are charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. The first count has a maximum possible sentence of 40 years in prison, while the manslaughter-related count has a 10-year maximum prison sentence. 

Actual sentences are often short of the maximum.

Ellison is expected to address the charges during a news conference Wednesday afternoon. 

The Hennepin County attorney’s office was handling prosecutions stemming from George Floyd’s death until Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz assigned Ellison the responsibility on Sunday. Minneapolis is located in Hennepin County. 

Floyd’s memorial is scheduled for Thursday in Minneapolis. He was 46-years-old. 

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison answers questions about the investigation into the death of George Floyd, who died while in the custody of Minneapolis police officers, during a news conference in St. Paul, Minnesota, U.S. May 27, 2020.

John Autey | Reuters

Two separate autopsies, one commissioned by Floyd’s family and another performed by the Hennepin County, Minnesota, Medical Examiner’s Office, both found that Floyd’s death was a homicide, but differed in their determinations of its causes.

The Hennepin County medical examiner’s autopsy found that Floyd died from “cardiopulmonary arrest” that was complicated by police subduing him with restraint and neck compression. The autopsy also cited underlying health conditions as contributing to his death.

But the independent autopsy, conducted by pathologists hired by Floyd’s family, found that he died from asphyxiation, and that pressure on both his neck and back contributed. Dr. Michael Baden, one of the pathologists and a former chief medical examiner for New York City, said Monday that Floyd “had no underlying medical problems that caused or contributed to his death.”

The criminal complaint against Chauvin details Kueng’s and Lane’s actions during Floyd’s arrest. According to the complaint, Kueng held Floyd’s back and Lane held his legs.

At one point, Kueng checked for a pulse, and said “I couldn’t find one,” according to the complaint. But he and the other cops stayed in their positions for approximately two more minutes.

Floyd repeatedly told the officers that he could not breathe, cried out for his deceased mother, and asked the officers “please,” the complaint against Chauvin reads.

In all, Chauvin held his knee on Floyd’s neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds, including for nearly three minutes after Floyd became nonresponsive, according to the complaint. 

Booking photo of former Minneapolis Officer Derek Chauvin

Photo provided by Ramsey County Jail

Video tape of the encounter shows bystanders calling for the officers to get off of him.

In an emotional speech earlier on Wednesday, Crump, the Floyd family attorney, said Floyd “cried out for anybody who would listen.”

“It seemed like the lay people on the street were listening. The people who refused to listen were the people who were supposed to listen,” Crump said, speaking from the site where Floyd was killed. 

This is breaking news. Check back for updates. 

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