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Killing of George Floyd
May 2020 police killing of an unarmed man in Minneapolis, Minnesota
On May 25, 2020, George Floyd, a 46-year-old black American man, was killed in Minneapolis, Minnesota, during an arrest for allegedly using a counterfeit bill.Derek Chauvin, a white police officer, knelt on Floyd's neck for almost eight minutes[note 1] while Floyd was handcuffed and lying face down, begging for his life and repeatedly saying "I can't breathe". Officers J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane further restrained Floyd, while officer Tou Thao prevented bystanders from intervening. During the final three minutes, Floyd was motionless and had no pulse while Chauvin ignored onlookers' pleas to remove his knee, which he did not do until medics told him to.
Floyd's death triggered the subsequent protests against police brutality, police racism, and lack of police accountability.
In early June, the Minneapolis City Council took action to ban chokeholds and require police officers to intervene against the use of excessive force by other officers, and voted an intent to restructure the police department as a "new community-based system of public safety". The Minneapolis Police Chief canceled contract negotiations with the police union and announced plans to bring in outside experts to examine how the union contract can be restructured to provide transparency and "flexibility for true reform".
Tou Thao (age 34) started as a part-time community service officer in 2008 and graduated from the police academy in 2009. After a two-year layoff he resumed work for the police in 2012. Six complaints had been filed against Thao, none resulting in disciplinary action. In 2014, a man claimed Thao handcuffed him without cause, threw him to the ground, and punched, kicked, and kneed him; the man's teeth were broken and he was hospitalized. The resulting lawsuit was settled for $25,000.
James Alexander Kueng (age 26) and Thomas Kiernan Lane (age 37) were licensed as law enforcement officers in August 2019. Kueng and Lane had trained together, and were in their first week as Minneapolis police officers when Floyd was killed. Chauvin was the superior officer responsible for the majority of Kueng's field training.
The intersection of Chicago Avenue and E.38th Street on May30. Floyd was killed just left of the awning.
On the evening of Memorial Day, May 25, 2020, Floyd purchased cigarettes at Cup Foods, a grocery store at the intersection of East 38th Street and Chicago Avenue in the Powderhorn Park neighborhood of Minneapolis. A store employee believed Floyd had paid with a counterfeit $20 bill.
Just before 8:00 pm, two Cup Foods employees left the store and crossed the street to an SUV parked in front of a restaurant; Floyd was in the driver's seat and two other adults were in the vehicle. The employees demanded that Floyd return the cigarettes, and he refused. The interaction was filmed by the restaurant's security camera.[note 2] At 8:01, a store employee called police to report that Floyd had passed "fake bills" and was "awfully drunk" and "not in control of himself".[note 3]
At 8:08, Kueng and Lane arrived, briefly entering Cup Foods before crossing the street to Floyd's SUV. Lane drew his gun and ordered Floyd to put his hands on the steering wheel; Floyd complied and Lane holstered his weapon. Someone parked behind Floyd's SUV began recording a video at 8:10.Following a brief struggle, Lane pulled Floyd from the SUV and handcuffed him. At 8:12, Kueng sat Floyd on the sidewalk against the wall in front of the restaurant. According to criminal complaints filed against the officers by state prosecutors, Floyd was "calm" and said "thank you".
Chauvin kneels on Floyd's neck
Kueng and Lane told Floyd he was under arrest and walked him to their police car across the street. Floyd fell to the ground next to the car; the officers picked him up and placed him against the car's door.According to prosecutors, Floyd told the officers that he was not resisting, but that he was claustrophobic and did not want to sit in the car. A Minneapolis Park Police officer arrived and guarded Floyd's vehicle (across the street by the restaurant) and the two people who had been in it with Floyd.
At 8:17, a third police car arrived with officers Derek Michael Chauvin and Tou Thao, who joined Kueng and Lane. Chauvin assumed command. According to prosecutors, Floyd told the officers he could not breathe while they tried to force him into the car. Around 8:18, security footage from Cup Foods shows Kueng struggling with Floyd for at least a minute in the driver side backseat while Thao watches. At 8:19, standing on the passenger side of the vehicle, Chauvin pulled Floyd across the backseat from the driver side to the passenger side, then out of the car. Floyd, still handcuffed, fell to the pavement where he lay on his chest with his cheek to the ground. Floyd stopped moving around 8:20, though he was still conscious.
Multiple witnesses began to film the encounter, and their videos were circulated widely on the internet. At 8:20, a witness across the street began recording video showing Chauvin kneeling on Floyd's neck, Kueng applying pressure to Floyd's torso, and Lane applying pressure to Floyd's legs, while Thao stood nearby. This witness stopped filming when one of the officers ordered him to leave. Also at 8:20, a second person, standing near the entrance of Cup Foods, began recording the incident. Floyd can be heard repeatedly saying "I can't breathe", "Please", and "Mama"; Floyd repeated at least 16 times that he could not breathe. At one point a witness said: "You got him down. Let him breathe." After Floyd said, "I'm about to die", Chauvin told him to "relax". An officer asked Floyd, "What do you want?"; Floyd answered, "I can't breathe". Floyd said, "Please, the knee in my neck, I can't breathe."
At approximately 8:22, the officers called for an ambulance on a non-emergency basis, escalating the call to emergency status a minute later. Chauvin continued to kneel on Floyd's neck. A passerby yelled to Floyd, "Well, get up, get in the car, man", and Floyd, still handcuffed and face down on the pavement, responded, "I can't", while Chauvin's knee remained on his neck. Floyd cried out "Mama!" twice. Floyd said, "My stomach hurts, my neck hurts, everything hurts", requested water, and begged, "Don't kill me." One witness pointed out that Floyd was bleeding from the nose. Another told the officers that Floyd was "not even resisting arrest right now". Thao countered that Floyd was "talking, he's fine"; a witness replied that Floyd "ain't fine... Get him off the ground... You could have put him in the car by now. He's not resisting arrest or nothing. You're enjoying it. Look at you. Your body language explains it." As Floyd continued to cry for help, Thao said to witnesses: "This is why you don't do drugs, kids."
By 8:25, Floyd appeared unconscious, and bystanders confronted the officers about Floyd's condition. Chauvin pulled out mace to keep bystanders away as Thao moved between them and Chauvin. Bystanders repeatedly yelled that Floyd was "not responsive right now" and urged the officers to check his pulse. Kueng checked Floyd's wrist but found no pulse; the officers did not attempt to provide Floyd with medical assistance. According to the criminal complaint against Chauvin, Lane asked Chauvin twice if they should move Floyd onto his side, and Chauvin said no. A witness asked, "Did they fucking kill him?"
Medical response and death
At 8:27 pm, a Hennepin County ambulance arrived. Shortly thereafter, a young relative of the owner of Cup Foods attempted to intervene, but was pushed back by Thao.Emergency medical technicians checked Floyd's pulse. Chauvin kept his knee on Floyd's neck for almost a minute after the ambulance arrived, despite Floyd being silent and motionless. When he finally did lift his knee, it had been there for seven minutes and forty-six seconds. [note 1]
Around 8:29, Floyd was lifted by paramedics onto a stretcher,
then loaded into an ambulance which departed for Hennepin County Medical Center. En route, the ambulance requested assistance from the Minneapolis Fire Department. At 8:32, firefighters arrived at Cup Foods; according to their report, the police officers gave no clear information regarding Floyd's condition or whereabouts, which delayed their ability to find the ambulance. Meanwhile, the ambulance reported that Floyd was entering cardiac arrest and again requested assistance, asking firefighters to meet them at the corner of 36th Street and Park Avenue. Five minutes later, the fire department reached the ambulance; two fire department medics who boarded the ambulance found Floyd unresponsive and pulseless.
Early on May 26, the Minneapolis Police Department issued a statement ("Man Dies After Medical Incident During Police Interaction") which said nothing about Chauvin kneeling on Floyd's neck: "After Floyd got out [of his car], he physically resisted officers. Officers were able to get the suspect into handcuffs and noted he appeared to be suffering medical distress." Hours later, after witness and security camera video circulating on the internet contradicted that account, the department updated its statement, calling its earlier statement preliminary, and stating that new information had "been made available" and that the FBI was joining the investigation. The four officers were briefly placed on paid administrative leave before being fired later that day.
A criminal complaint against Chauvin, issued May 29, cited preliminary results of an autopsy conducted by the Hennepin County medical examiner, which found "no physical findings that support a diagnosis of traumatic asphyxia or strangulation", but found that Floyd suffered from coronary artery disease and hypertensive heart disease. The complaint cited the preliminary opinion that 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".
Floyd's family commissioned a second autopsy, carried out by Michael Baden, a pathologist and former New York City chief medical examiner who had autopsied Eric Garner, and attended by Allecia Wilson, director of autopsy and forensic services at the University of Michigan Medical School. He found that the "evidence is consistent with mechanical asphyxia as the cause of Floyd's death", and that the death was a homicide. He said Floyd died from "asphyxia due to compression of the neck", affecting "blood flow and oxygen going into the brain", and also from "compression of the back, which interferes with breathing". He said Floyd had no underlying medical problem that caused or contributed to his death, and that being able to speak does not mean that someone is able to breathe.
Neither examiner mentioned excited delirium, a condition which concerned Lane and that he discussed with Chauvin while he had Floyd pinned down.
On June 10, Lane was released on bail; his attorney asserted that he warned Chauvin of the danger of severe harm to Floyd, and that doing so was all that was required under Minneapolis police regulations at the time. On June 19, Kueng became the second charged officer to be released on bail. Thao then followed suit on July 4.
On June 29 the presiding judge in the case indicated that continued public comments on the case, by defense attorneys or public officials, were likely to lead to the case being transferred to another county.
On May 26, the FBI announced it was reviewing the incident at the request of the Minneapolis Police Department. On May 28, the United States Department of Justice released a joint statement with the FBI, saying that their investigation into Floyd's death was "a top priority" and outlining the investigation's next steps: a "comprehensive investigation will compile all available information and thoroughly evaluate evidence and information obtained from witnesses ... If it is determined that there has been a violation of federal law, criminal charges will be sought".The Wall Street Journal called this statement "notably strong", given that the department "often takes a more muted tone in describing continuing investigations".
State civil rights action
The Minnesota Department of Human Rights opened an investigation into the practices of the Minneapolis Police Department on June 2. On June 5, the Minneapolis City Council authorized the mayor to enter a restraining order with the State of Minnesota banning choke holds and neck restraints, requiring police officers to intervene against other officers' use of excessive force, and requiring authorization from the police chief or other designate before using crowd-control weapons such as chemical agents and rubber bullets. On June 8, a Hennepin County Court judge ordered the Minneapolis Police Department to cooperate with a civil rights investigation, and extended the restrictions on the department to require that the chief make discipline decisions in a timely and transparent manner, and that certain outside investigators be given authority to audit[further explanation needed] body-worn camera footage and to file or amend complaints on behalf of the Minneapolis Civil Rights Department.
Memorials, protests and reactions
A makeshift memorial outside the store where Floyd was killed
The area near the location where Floyd was killed became a makeshift memorial throughout May 26, with many placards paying tribute to him and referencing the Black Lives Matter movement. As the day progressed, more people came to demonstrate against Floyd's death. Hundreds of people, then marched to the 3rd Precinct of the Minneapolis Police. Participants used posters and slogans with phrases such as "Justice for George", "I can't breathe", and "Black Lives Matter".
While peaceful protests continued, others again became violent after sundown, with the pattern repeating for several days. As of June 9, the Star Tribune estimated 570 businesses in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area had been vandalized or destroyed, including 67 destroyed by fire.
Following the rioting, a nighttime curfew in Minneapolis-Saint Paul and Dakota County was established on May 29. 500 Minnesota National Guard soldiers were later dispatched to the area to enforce the curfew,
but to little effect, with about 1,000 protesters being able to march peacefully on Interstate 35 well into curfew.
Flowers and slogans in the intersection near which Floyd was killed (May30)
The length of time that Chauvin had his knee on Floyd's neck, eight minutes forty-six seconds, was widely commemorated as a "moment of silence" to honor Floyd. It was also used in chants, protest signs, and messages, as were the words "I can't breathe".
Numerous statues and monuments honoring persons or events associated with slavery and racism, in the US and elsewhere, were vandalized, removed, or destroyed during the protests .
Conspiracy theories began spreading soon after Floyd's death. The Los Angeles Times said on June 22 that some theories had been "amplified by a growing number of people on the far right, including some Republican leaders" but that "some Republicans (had) begun pushing back" on false claims and those spreading rumors.
^ abThe initial criminal complaint gave the time as 8:46, which came to be often cited by protesters and the media. Prosecutors later corrected this to 7:46.
^Footage begins at 7:50 pm The timestamp on the video is 24 minutes ahead of actual time, according to the restaurant's owner.
^The store owner said: "Most of the times when patrons give us a counterfeit bill they don't even know its fake so when the police are called there is no crime being committed just want to know where it came from and that's usually what takes place."
According to Mitchell Hamline law professor Ted Sampsell-Jones, Chauvin was charged with second-degree felony murder, not second-degree intentional murder, which is possible because Minnesota is only one of two jurisdictions that rejects the merger doctrine and allows the use of assault as a predicate felony. While a charge of second-degree intentional murder could have exposed Chauvin under state sentencing guidelines to the possibility of a presumptive sentence as long as 306 months, second-degree felony murder carries the same presumptive sentence as the previous charge of third-degree murder: 180 months. Another issue with invoking the felony murder doctrine is that Minnesota law allows the trial court judge to make the requisite finding that the predicate felony posed a "special danger to human life," which may conflict with federal case law requiring every fact essential to a criminal sentence to be submitted to the jury at trial.