Prosecutors today upgraded a charge of second degree murder against former Minneapolis cop Derek Chauvin in the killing of George Floyd, and added new charges of “aiding and abetting” against the three other officers who were at the scene.
The charges were filed in Hennepin County District Court in the last hour.
Chauvin was captured on video kneeling on Floyd’s neck for eight minutes, 46 seconds before he died.
He was arrested on May 29 and was initially charged with third degree murder and second degree manslaughter, which carries a maximum sentence of 25 years behind bars. On Wednesday, Minnesota’s Attorney General Keith Ellison brought the new charges.
At a previous press conference in the protest filled city, Ellison, who took lead on the case on May 31, said, “I believe the evidence available now supports the stronger charge.”
Ellison said that he earlier had asked for patience as prosecutors examined evidence were able to file aiding and abetting charges against the three other officers at the scene, Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane. Lane and Kueng were involved in restraining Floyd, and Thao stood nearby. Like Chauvin, they also were fired afterward.
The brutal killing of Floyd has sparked protests against racism and police violence across the country over the past week. The first of a trio of memorial events for Floyd will be tomorrow in Minneapolis, with more to follow in South Carolina and Houston, Texas over the next few days.
The Department of Justice also is conducting an investigation into Floyd’s death.
Benjamin Crump, the attorney for Floyd’s family, tweeted about the new charges:
FAMILY’S REACTION: This is 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. #JusticeForGeorge pic.twitter.com/jTfXFHpsYl
— Benjamin Crump, Esq. (@AttorneyCrump) June 3, 2020
The Floyd family have advocated for Chauvin to be charged with first-degree murder, which carries a life sentence.
Ellison, however, noted that “you have to have pre-meditation and deliberation to charge first-degree murder.”
Ellison said that “history shows that there are clear challenges here” in prosecuting police officers.
The second-degree charge is for unintentional murder while committing a felony, with a sentence of not more than 40 years. The state statute defines it as a situation where someone “causes the death of a human being, without intent to effect the death of any person, while committing or attempting to commit a felony offense.”
“I strongly believe that these developments are in the interest of justice for Mr. Floyd, his family, our community and our state,” Ellison said.
In their new court filing, prosecutors said that while the medical examiner “did not observe physical findings of medical asphyxia,” the examiner “opines that Mr. Floyd died from cardiopulmonary arrest while being restrained by law enforcement officers.” The medical examiner concluded that “the manner of death was homicide.”
“Officer Chauvin’s restraint of Mr. Floyd in this manner for a prolonged period was a substantial factor in Mr. Floyd losing consciousness, constituting substantial bodily harm, and Mr. Floyd’s death as well,” the prosecutors said in the filing.